On Tuesday's edition of the podcast, we offer an apology for posting Draftkings fantasy football tournaments on our facebook page that we actually think you shouldn't enter (unless you thrive when taking big risks) and we also talk about Sam Bradford's increasing fantasy value and offer some daily fantasy advice at the running back position. Hint: We'll tell you why we like C.J. Anderson in Week 1.
Breathe a sigh of relief. Go out and enjoy some of the incoming spring weather for a second. The biggest wave of free agency has likely passed us. With most of the big time players like Ndamukong Suh, DeMarco Murray and Brandon Marshall now signed with new teams, it's time to let the dust clear and really look at how some of the players might be used and what their fantasy value could be in 2015. For this article, we will focus on the newest running back tandem in the league, Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia.
How they got there
The Eagles first hinted they were looking for a new running back when they traded away LeSean McCoy last week to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso. The move shaved $11 million off the salary cap for Philly, but left some wondering what the Eagles were thinking. After all, McCoy won the rushing title just two seasons ago in 2013, plus there wasn't exactly a huge free agency market for running backs. The immediate thought was the Eagles planned to grab a running back through the draft which features a talented crop of RBs this season.
But of course, that wasn't the case. They signed DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $42 million with $12 million guaranteed just a week later. At the same time Murray entered the picture, the Eagles were also in the midst of signing former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, who they eventually inked for three years and $11 million. Financially, it makes sense. McCoy was due more than $9 million in 2015 and would've saddled the Eagles with a $10 million cap hit roughly. Now, the Eagles have both Murray and Mathews for just a $7.5 million cap hit. Overall, it's two running backs, Alonso and cornerback Walter Thurmond for the price of what McCoy would've cost. Not a bad tradeoff. Another nice thing about the trade — both running backs are in the prime of their careers and have rushed for over 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. On paper, it's a worthwhile endeavor, but who knows if it'll translate to more wins on the field.
The Mathews deal looked more like Chip simply getting a potentially good running back at a bargain price, while the Murray deal cemented the former Cowboy as the newest franchise running back of the Philadelphia Eagles. But how will it all translate from a fantasy perspective.
The carry breakdown
The Eagles have become a more run-oriented team since Chip arrived in 2013. In the past two seasons, the Eagles ranked in the top 5 in total rushing attempts and have seen one of their guys win a rushing title (LeSean McCoy in 2013.) While McCoy was a true feature back, seeing the majority of carries compared to then-backups Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, it's looking like there could be more of a committee style attack in 2015 with Murray still assuming the majority of the carries.
Last season, there were 415 rushing attempts by running backs in the Philadelphia offense. Murray ran the ball a league-leading 392 times in 2013, a workload that dwarfed any other running back by 100 carries. Even though Murray ended up winning the rushing title with more than 1,800 yards, it's safe to say Philadelphia likely won't run him as hard as Dallas did. Murray slowed down as the season went along, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry in two of the Cowboys' last four games.
Assuming both Murray and Mathews are healthy, Murray is the obvious choice for the majority of the carries. While some may be wondering whether or not Mathews will still have fantasy appeal, the answer is a little cloudy but still important to know in case you plan on drafting him in redraft leagues. Mathews will have RB2/flex appeal in 2015. He might have hot and cold weeks, but some weeks he'll rush for 60 yards and a touchdown and that's still worth 12 fantasy points in most leagues. Other weeks, Murray will take over. But the track record for running backs coming off a season where they carried the ball as much as Murray did hasn't favored the running back. Going back to guys like Larry Johnson, who carried the ball over 400 times in one season, it's safe to say you're not going to get the same kind of fantasy production from Murray that you did last season.
One thing you have to remember with running backs is matchups also play a huge role. Take last year for example. Darren Sproles got off to a hot start in 2014. He rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against a lowly Jacksonville team. LeSean McCoy, on the other hand, ran for 74 yards on 21 carries. McCoy had more carries, but Sproles ended up having a slightly better fantasy day. This gave him confidence to slay the Colts in Week 2 on Monday Night. In that game, Sproles caught seven passes for 152 yards, giving those who started him in fantasy plenty of production.
You will want to keep an eye on who the Eagles play in Week 1. If they play a run defense that looks like it could be below average, Mathews is an obvious flex start in the offense. Now, he could fall flat on his face in Week 1 and not produce at all, at least then you'll know what kind of player you're dealing with this season, and can remain hesitant to start him in the coming weeks.
But overall, Mathews is a player that has to be drafted in 12-to-14 team leagues this season. He's still a talented running back in a run oriented offense. Plus, Murray always comes with a 'handle with care' sticker and could find himself on the injured reserve list at some point during the season. But even if Murray stays healthy, Mathews will likely see touches on the field and if he has the hot hand, then he'll be the one getting you 10-12 fantasy points that particular week.
Editor's note: This is the first of many articles where we will recap how a certain player did in 2014. We will also try to explain what went wrong and how we can better prepare for the future.
Coming off a storied 2013 campaign where he claimed the rushing title for the first time in his young career, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy surged into the Top 3 for Average Draft Position (ADP) in 2014.
Obviously there were high expectations, and while you can't say McCoy was a disappointment since he finished third overall in rushing (1,319 yards) behind only Le'Veon Bell (1,361 yards) and top guy DeMarco Murray (1,845 yards), Shady still scored only five touchdowns which ranked 23rd among running backs. For a guy who touched the ball 312 times (second most only to Murray who had an obscene 392 carries), those touchdown numbers left a lot to be desired.
Coming into this season
At just 26 years old, McCoy's 2014 fantasy value was as high as ever at the start of training camp. At a young age, his legs still had plenty of miles left on them and with just six games missed over six seasons and no major injuries, he passed the ever-so-important durability concern test that ever fantasy player analyzes almost to a fault at the beginning of the season. McCoy was also coming off his first season under Chip Kelly, a coach whose scheme lends itself to plenty of rushing attempts due to its fast pace and run heavy nature.
McCoy was also one of the better PPR (points per reception) backs in the league which includes back-to-back 50 catch seasons in 2012 and 2013. All these factors led to many fantasy players selecting McCoy as the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the majority of fantasy drafts this season in hopes that he would repeat those numbers.
But, in what's become a recurring theme with running backs after a big season, McCoy failed to top those numbers in 2014. Overall, he finished 13th in fantasy points among fantasy running backs, which while definitely good overall, didn't live up to expectations based on his ADP. So what obstacles prevented him from doing so and what lessons can we learn from this for the future?
Increased competition for stats
As we mentioned above, McCoy was a dominant receiver for his position. He averaged about 400 receiving yards per season (an extra 40 fantasy points in standard leagues) coming into 2014. But those receiving totals were pretty much halved in 2014 and you can credit a few reasons for that, but the major one was the addition of veteran Darren Sproles.
The Eagles fleeced Sproles for just a fifth-round pick from the New Orleans Saints and the move had a profound impact on the Eagles' passing game early on in the season. Sproles caught 14 passes in the first three games, including a dominant seven catch, 153-yard effort against Indianapolis on Monday Night in Week 2.
Sproles also briefly outshined McCoy overall early on in the season. Through Philadelphia's first three games, Sproles amassed 313 yards combined rushing and receiving compared to McCoy's 239. In that span, Sproles achieved those numbers in only 17 rushing attempts and 14 catches while it took McCoy 40 rushing attempts and 10 catches for his. Now, that wasn't a theme that continued throughout the season, but it's worth noting McCoy was very slow out of the gate in 2014.
While Kelly stressed McCoy was still the No. 1 running back and the addition of Sproles wouldn't affect McCoy's attempts, Sproles still finished with 40 receptions while McCoy ended up with just 28, showing that the addition of a versatile running back can curb your feature backs' numbers. Kelly lived up to his word of leaning on McCoy just as much as he did last season though, as Shady frequently carried the ball more than 20 times per game and never saw less than 10 carries in one contest.
While normally a drop in reception numbers wouldn't affect someone with a huge running workload like McCoy, Shady's lack of touchdowns in 2014 served as the real culprit in causing his fantasy numbers to dip slightly. With just five scores on the ground, Kelly leaned on the younger Chris Polk for goal line touches and with a red zone touchdown percentage of just under 50 percent, the Eagles found themselves below average in scoring the ball around the goal line.
McCoy was never a high volume scorer throughout his career. Aside from a fluky year in 2011 where he scored 17 rushing touchdowns, he has never crossed into double digits since. Through six seasons, McCoy rushed for 4,7,17,2,9, and 5 touchdowns, respectively. So without touchdowns (six in most most standard leagues per touchdown) and without the receiving numbers to offset the lack of fantasy points, McCoy didn't pop for big numbers too often. His best fantasy days were back-to-back 19 point efforts in Weeks 12 and 13 against poor rushing defenses in Tennessee and Dallas.
The addition of Sproles curbed McCoy's reception output to his lowest since his rookie year in 2009.
Were injuries along the offensive line an issue?
While Philadelphia's offensive line wasn't nearly as healthy as they were in 2013 with injuries to center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis plus the suspension to a budding star in Lane Johnson making things even more complicated, it still doesn't explain why Sproles was so effective and McCoy wasn't. If you go back and watch McCoy compared to Sproles, he looked a little bit more indecisive at times. In the NFL, all it takes is one split second of uncertainty that can make the difference between a 20-yard gain and a five-yard loss.
We saw just how effective a running back can be with one of the best offensive lines in the league. McCoy arguably had the best one last season and won the rushing title. DeMarco Murray definitely had the best one this season and repeated the same feat.
If you're a top 10 talent at running back, a great offensive line can propel you into No. 1 territory. So keep an eye on which offensive line is the best heading into a season in the future. Also, indecisiveness can creep into a running backs mind at any time and end up zapping his confidence for the remainder of a season. Plus, the addition of a proven veteran in the backfield can mess up fantasy stats.
Ending note/slight brag: We wrote about LeSean McCoy's likely regression before the 2014 season began and our theories proved mostly correct.
Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
If you’re reading this you’re more than likely looking for advice for round 1 of the fantasy playoffs. Check out the below key points about the two most commonly streamed positions during these do or die weeks, QB and Defense/Special Teams. Good Luck!
Start of the Week:
QB –Russell Wilson at Philadelphia- #6 in Weekly Rankings
Is Wilson the best fantasy QB this week? Probably not, but everyone above him is just too obvious to talk about and I’d only need to say their names as to why you should love them this week. Russell Wilson travels to Philadelphia, the 26th ranked team in terms of passing yards against. Russell Wilson’s rushing stats have been amazingly consistent and high with over 30 rushing yards in 7 straight weeks including four games over 70 yards and two games over 100 yards. It’s a given that Wilson will add fantasy points via the rush. Going up against one of the weakest pass defenses against fantasy QBs, Wilson should be able to have one of his best passing days of the season. When he does both things well, we’ve seen Russellmania be able to put up top 3 QB weeks.
D/ST – Minnesota v. NY Jets - #1 in Weekly Rankings
The Vikings will be without star rookie LB Anthony Barr but I’m still placing them in the top spot. This defense just put up a 30 spot in standard leagues with its two blocked punt TDs and all around domination against the Carolina Panthers. Their 35 sacks rank 4th in the NFL and they’re suddenly the 9th ranked fantasy defense. This week they’re matching up with Geno Smith. The Jets are literally scared to let their QB throw as evidenced by last week’s bizarre game-plan where Smith threw 13 passes. If the Vikings put 8 or 9 in the box and stop the Jets on first down and create 2nd and 3rd and long, we could be seeing many sacks and turnovers and very possibly a score for this defense.
QB – Ryan Tannehill - #10 in Weekly Rankings
Tannehill is coming off a dud in a prime matchup against the Jets last week. However, he’s coming back home where he’s had multiple TDs in his last three outings. Tannehill is in the midst of a breakout year and the addition of rushing stats to his game via the read option have made him a weekly fringe QB1. This week he faces the Ravens, a team who may be struggling against the pass more than anyone in the NFL right now. The Ravens have been a different defense since star CB Jimmy Smith went down for the season. They’ve allowed over 32 fantasy points to QBs in 6 PT KD leagues in 3 out of the last 4 weeks and we all remember the 6 TD game they gave up to Big Ben. If things weren’t bad enough, All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been suspended for the remainder of the season for using Adderall. The Dolphins should be able to move the ball at will and Tannehill should extend his streak of multiple TD games at home.
D/ST – New Orleans v. Carolina- #8 in Weekly Rankings
The New Orleans Saints are fantasy football’s 28th ranked defense. I don’t really have much good to say about them other than the play of Keenan Lewis and Cameron Jordan. The high ranking of this team should tell you just how much the Carolina Panthers are struggling. In their last two road games against Minnesota and Philadelphia, the Panthers have allowed opposing fantasy defenses to score a mind boggling 30 and 35 fantasy points respectively. Cam Newton has 7 turnovers in his last 3 games and the Panthers’ special teams is coming off a week where they allowed two blocked punts. The Saints have already played the Panthers on the road, a game they won 28-10 and a game in which they had their best fantasy defensive outing of the season. The Panthers are in the midst of an epic collapse and I don’t think a trip to New Orleans is the answer. The Saints are most likely available in many leagues and I highly recommend them as a matchup play.
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick at Jacksonville - #23 in Weekly Rankings
Warning! Do not chase last week’s six TDs game from Fitzmagic. It’s so tempting to think that Fitzpatrick can keep this up, but he’s a journeyman part time starting QB. We’ve seen Matt Flynn do this and completely disappear off the face of the earth, so please do not think this kind of play will continue. Fitzpatrick is in his 9th season and is on his 5th team. That is telling. In addition, Jacksonville sounds like a great matchup but it’s not. The Jaguars rank 20th against fantasy QBs but have gotten better as the season as progressed as they’ve only given up one 20 point fantasy QB game since week 4. Stay away, do not be baited into this dud in the playoffs.
D/ST – Indianapolis at Cleveland - #18 in Weekly Rankings
Brian Hoyer has been completing a lot of passes to the opposing team but this week the Colts will be without Pro Bowl CB Vontae Davis. Davis is the backbone of this defense and frankly he’s the only reason it’s even mediocre. Without him the Colts are vulnerable against both the run and pass. Last time the Colts were without Vontae Davis was 11 snaps into a game against the Steelers, a game in which the Colts gave up 51 points. Look for a big time shootout in this game.
On a special Thanksgiving edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers break down each game on the Thanksgiving slate including the Eagles/Cowboys, 49ers/Seahawks and Bears/Lions. They talk about every relevant fantasy player in those matchups and finish the podcast by sending out love letters of thanks to the players who have helped them throughout the fantasy season on their own fantasy teams. Also, check out our weekly rankings here.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Mark Sanchez — Sanchez has been playing adequately in replacement of Nick Foles, and is a solid QB1 option against a bad Dallas secondary. While Sanchez is prone to turnovers (he's averaging about two interceptions per game) the high octane offense of the Philadelphia Eagles combined with the good matchup should keep him in the 15-20 point range.
Tony Romo — Romo is in line for a big week. The Eagles have one of the worst defenses against the quarterback, surrendering 19.5 points per game. Only the New York Jets allow more. He's a must-start for Week 12.
DeMarco Murray — Obviously a must start, Eagles are better against the run than the pass, but the offensive line of Dallas is far and away the best in the league right now. Expect another 100 yard rushing day.
LeSean McCoy — McCoy is finally starting to recapture the elusiveness that helped him claim the rushing title last season. When he makes guys miss in the open field, he rattles off big gains. McCoy found the end zone last week and recorded his first game of 100-plus rushing and a score. He's a must start this week.
Jeremy Maclin — A must-start WR1 as always. With 980 receiving yards on the season, Maclin is ready to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. He remains one of the best ADP draft bargains of 2014.
Jordan Matthews — Continues to thrive as the No. 2 receiver with Sanchez under center. It's impossible for Matthews not to be productive based on Sanchez's strengths in the intermediate game.
Dez Bryant — Clear cut WR1 in a great matchup. Bryant should near 100 yards and find the end zone at least once this week.
Terrance Williams — Not startable due to a low volume of targets, but the Eagles do give up quite a few points to receivers. If you're very desperate, there's some upside to this matchup.
Zach Ertz (sleeper*) — The Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the tight end, giving up 10.1 fantasy points per week to tight ends on average. They've also given up a league-worst 72 receptions to tight ends on the year. Vernon Davis, Larry Donnell and Jimmy Graham have all carved them up.
Jason Witten — Remains a very solid TE2 against a defense that hasn't fared well against tight ends with DeMeco Ryans out.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford — We know he's played bad recently, but Stafford has a great matchup at home against a bad defense. He's a great option this week.
Jay Cutler — Rated our No.17 QB in our weekly rankings, Cutler continues to struggle with turnovers and overall poor production. The only upside is the Bears will likely be down in this game early which could mean plenty of garbage time yards. He's a QB2.
Reggie Bush — He's expected to start today, and is a desperate play even with a good matchup. Still, the Lions could use some help at running back as they're one of the worst rushing teams in the league. There's some element of home run potential here.
Joique Bell — Still a great flex play in PPR leagues.
Matt Forte — Don't be scared off by the tough matchup even for a second, Forte's one of the best receivers out of the backfield in the league right now. Any rushing yards negated by a tough Lions run defense should be made up for in the passing game.
Brandon Marshall — Played much better lately, he's got 8 touchdowns on the year but three of those came in one game against San Francisco. He's still a must start in 12-team leagues.
Alshon Jeffery — Wide receiver who is always a must start. He's scored three touchdowns in the last four games.
Calvin Johnson — Megatron could be in line for his best game of the season. The Bears will be without their top defensive back in Kyle Fuller and Johnson has seen target numbers of 15,12, and 10 in his last three games.
Golden Tate — Tate is a solid WR2 in a plus matchup. His 97 receiving yards were a lone bright spot against New England last week, and he's already eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.
Martellus Bennett — A guy who doesn't get enough credit. Bennett struggled last week but also strung together a 134-yard effort against the Green Bay Packers. The Lions one weak spot comes in defending tight ends, so Bennett has upside in this matchup.
Eric Ebron (sleeper*) — Injuries have slowed what was expected to be a good rookie season for one of the top tight ends of the 2014 draft. Ebron has a great matchup against the Bears, who rank dead last against the tight end (10.9 fantasy points per game). Expect Stafford to look for him in the red zone.
On Monday's weekly First Aid podcast, the Helpers discuss the St. Louis Rams and their emerging defense, the white hot Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay Packers and whether or not Mark Sanchez is an every week QB1 going forward. Plus weekly awards and a preview for tonight's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers/Tennessee Titans.
Start of the week:
LeSean McCoy @ Green Bay Packers — #4 in weekly rankings
It's tough to plug McCoy as an RB1 these days, and that's mainly because it's tough to really pin him down this year in general. He was strong the last four weeks (two 100-yard games to go along with two 80-yard games) before tossing up a dud against Carolina despite a 45 point effort by the Eagles' offense.
But despite a lackluster performance on the stat sheet as of late and only two touchdowns on the season overall by the RB, the Eagles currently sit atop the NFC and Chip Kelly has found a way to consistently utilize McCoy without relying on him to score the football to win games. Even with his not-so-amazing stats, there's still plenty of reason to get excited about his fantasy value in Week 11.
McCoy finds himself in a great matchup against a weak run defense in Green Bay. The Packers have surrendered a 30th-worst 142 rushing yards per game. McCoy will also be playing in the frigid cold of Lambeau Field, where the temperature is expected to be around 30 degrees before kickoff at 4 p.m. The Eagles had the luxury of not playing in too many cold games last season, but McCoy rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns against a bad Chicago defense in Chicago during the winter weather in 2013. McCoy also torched Green Bay for 155 yards when the two teams played in Green Bay last season.Though past efforts aren't necessarily an indication of future efforts, it's just worth noting that McCoy has been successful in the cold in past games.
When it comes to how well the offense has been playing, the Eagles offensive line continues to get stronger as they get healthier. They protected quarterback Mark Sanchez extremely well last week against Carolina, and while Julius Peppers may be a bit tougher to contain, the presence of Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis should help keep the Green Bay front four in check. If you remember, the Eagles offensive line did a good job containing J.J. Watt when they played the Texans a few weeks ago, as they held one of the best defensive ends in football to just one tackle for a loss.
Weather conditions may also come into play here, as Sanchez will be having to deal with throwing a frozen ball which could mean the Eagles may opt to go more run heavy. Aside from his 12 attempts last week in a lopsided game, McCoy had rushed for 24, 21, 22 and 24 in his previous efforts. There's a good chance he does that again given the conditions in Green Bay.
Montee Ball @ St. Louis — #26 in weekly rankings
Currently listed as probable, expect Ball to be eased back into the lineup opposite C.J. Anderson. But with Ronnie Hillman out, there's a good chance Ball sees some carries and maybe snags a goal line touchdown or two. The Rams are allowing a little over 124 rushing yards per game (25th worst) but they held Andre Ellington to just 1.3 yards per carry last week and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Russell Wilson in Week 7.
Don't expect Ball to light the world on fire since he hasn't been the most explosive option even when he's been healthy (only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his four starts), but the situation calls for him getting a little bit of action and sometimes all a player needs is a little opportunity.
Ball is a good flex play if you're in a deep league. He could vulture a touchdown on the goal line which is all you need in that spot. Just to be clear — Ball is not likely to go off this week at all, but there's potential for him to see enough of a workload to warrant a productive day.
Shane Vereen @ Indianapolis— #25 in weekly rankings
Vereen (and the entire Patriots' backfield for that matter) remain difficult to predict in fantasy football thanks to the chess-like mind of Pats' coach Bill Belichick. It's almost as if Belichick hates fantasy football and trots out the running back who hasn't scored much lately and gives him the most carries. Jonas Gray, Stevan Ridley, insert-next-running-back-who-will-now-be-a-household-name-here.
Despite the wonky RB favoritism, there's a lot of potential for Vereen this week. The Colts and Patriots will likely be a shootout between two premier quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Tom Brady. The game will also be played under the comfortable dome conditions of Lucas Oil Stadium, so there's no cold interfering with the stats.
As for Vereen, he caught 13 passes over the last five games, so he's been on a PPR roll. The Patriots are coming off their bye week, so they're rested. Overall, Vereen remains the best fantasy back among the Patriots due to his versatility.
Marshawn Lynch @ Kansas City— #2 in weekly rankings
It's tough to say, but consider benching Lynch this week against Kansas City. He's banged up, and is going against a strong Kansas City defense that kept the Bills run game largely in check last week. Lynch posted his best effort of the season last week against the New York Giants, where he ran for 140 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time Lynch eclipsed the 100-yard mark since Week 1 against Green Bay. Expect him to revert back to the more subdued version of beast mode against Kansas City, and likely finish with 67 yards and maybe a touchdown.
On this episode of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss some of their hits and misses from last week. They also talk about the Philadelphia Eagles and their many new fantasy relevant players including Mark Sanchez and Chris Polk. They also talk about a few running backs that could be busts or booms this week depending on how everything shakes out.
First, Casey talks about his hits from last week. He correctly called Christopher Ivory being a bust for Week 9, as the New York Jets struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9. Ivory is a touchdown dependent back, and when the Jets aren't scoring, he's not nearly as fantasy relevant.
Another correct bust call was San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who had his fifth straight game under 50 receiving yards. He was ranked as the No. 24 wide receiver last week, and struggled with drops and also couldn't find the end zone late after getting taken down at the one yard line.
A Week 9 miss was Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who scored 38 fantasy points in standard leagues.
As far as RBs go, Andre Williams finished with 19 carries for 22 yards and a touchdown. We called him a likely bust in Week 9 and you could say that was true based on his measly 1.9 yards per carry average.
Next, we labeled Browns RB Isaiah Crowell as a dark horse in Week 9 due to the ineffectiveness of Ben Tate as the team's No. 1 running back. Unfortunately, Crowell never got so much as one carry and finished with zero yards. However, he did finish with 12 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown last night against the Cincinnati Bengals. Crowell now has five touchdowns on the season but will probably always be a fantasy liability in a crowded backfield.
Next miss was Lorenzo Taliaferro against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Helpers thought Taliaferro had a shot at taking off due to the uncertainty of starter Justin Forsett, who was nursing an injury coming into Baltimore's division matchup. But gameflow reared its ugly head, and the Ravens were forced to pass the ball for the majority of the game due to Ben Roethlisberger's red hot start.
Forsett and Taliaferro were equally ineffective in the ground game, with both finishing with under 40 rushing yards. Forsett managed to catch five passes for 67 yards however, showing that he can be an effective receiver at times. Forsett caught seveb passes for 55 yards earlier in the year against Indianapolis. He remains one of the biggest fantasy surprises of 2014.
Next, the Helpers get to talking about the Philadelphia Eagles and the recent changes made to their lineup. For one, the return of guard Evan Mathis this Sunday should help the run game out greatly. Running back Chris Polk is starting to see more touches in the backfield, and the young running back has proved a worthy complement to speedster LeSean McCoy.
New starting quarterback Mark Sanchez remains a bit of a mystery. He played well against Houston in relief of Nick Foles, but just how good will he be in this new offense? Based on his past, you can't consider him much more than a plug and play at this point.
- Mark Sanchez QB/Philadelphia Eagles (0.1% Owned)
In my opinion, being released by the New York Jets was the best thing that has happened to Sanchez. After signing with the Eagles this offseason, the former first-round pick was given an opportunity to prove himself with hopes of getting an opportunity to be a starting quarterback next season. While no one expected the Sanchize to be the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, he will now be thrust into the starting role for the foreseeable future after starting quarterback left Sunday’s game with what early reports are indicating as a broken collarbone.
Foles was diagnosed with a broken clavicle, and is likely to miss at least six weeks. Sanchez has a great opportunity to make a good impression going into the offseason. If Sunday’s performance is any indication as to how Sanchez will fit within the Eagles up-tempo offense, fantasy owners have to be excited. Sanchez picked apart the Texans defense in relief of Foles, completing 15 of 22 attempts for 202 yards and two touchdown passes to Jordan Mathews and Jeremy Maclin.
I know it's hard to wrap your head around the possibility of Mark Sanchez, the same person who made the “butt-fumble” a memorable play within NFL history, could possibly be counted on as a contributor for fantasy teams. However, with a good matchup against a Panthers defense that has been a shell of the unit they were a year ago, Sanchez has a chance to be a legitimate QB1 if he's able to take care of the football. In another week that sees a lot of teams on a bye, you could find much worse options than the Sanchize.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
Value: QB2 w/Potential
2. Alfred Blue RB/Houston Texans (7.0% Owned)
After battling hamstring issues for much of the offseason as well as the early part of this season, running back Arian Foster may be taking an extended leave from the Texans starting lineup after suffering another lower-body injury in the Texans week 9 loss to the Eagles. While there has been nothing definitive about the severity of Foster’s injury, ESPN Texans reporter Tania Ganguli senses "some pessimism" on Arian Foster's groin injury, noting that Foster’s body language after the injury gave off a serious vibe.
If Foster is indeed out for an extended period of time, the Texans will depend on 2014 6th round selection Alfred Blue to carry the load for the Texans rushing attack. In limited time this season Blue has rushed the ball 61 times for 221 yards (3.6 YPA), but has been unable to carve out a consistent role within the Texans offense.
Do not get too jumpy and rush out and get Blue quite yet fantasy owners. The Texans are on bye next week, giving Foster two weeks to heal until playing next. Continue to monitor the status of Foster over the next couple weeks to see how his groin injury progresses.
Recommendation: Stash and See
Value: RB4 w/Potential
3. Mike Evans WR/Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31.6% Owned)
Since second-year quarterback Mike Glennon has been inserted back into the starting lineup, rookie wide receiver Mike Evans has started to establish himself as the team’s number one option in the passing game.
In the five weeks that Glennon started for the Buccaneers, Evans has been the most consistent fantasy option between himself and veteran Vincent Jackson. In the teams first three weeks of the season, Evans got off to a slow start, totaling just 13 receptions for 138 yards and zero touchdowns. However, since Glennon has taken over as the team’s starting quarterback, Evans has played like a man possessed. In the five weeks of Glennon being the teams starting QB, Evans has 19 receptions for 322 receiving yards, including four touchdown receptions.
It's clear that Vincent Jackson is still hampered by a wrist injury, giving the talented rookie a chance to establish himself as the focal point of the Buccaneers passing game. With owner-friendly matchups against the Falcons, Redskins, and Bears in the next four weeks, Evans has a chance to assert himself as a weekly WR2 option.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
Value: WR3 w/Potential
4. Tre Mason RB/St. Louis Rams (49.1% Owned)
It seems the Rams have finally made a switch at running back, replacing the unproductive Benny Cunningham with rookie second-round selection Tre Mason as the team’s feature back. Despite being on a below-average offense, Mason has shown flashes of the ability to be a team’s feature running back.
In a tough match-up with the 49ers in week 9, Mason cemented himself as the team’s starting running back going forward. While the stat book will not jump out at you (19/65/0), Mason still showed big-play ability that has been lacking from the Rams running game since the days of Steven Jackson.
Going forward, Mason is not someone that I want to count on as a RB1 or RB2. With tough matchups against the Cardinals, Broncos, Chargers, and Redskins in the near future, the rookie is sure to go through his ups-and-downs that come with a rookie running back. Mason is definitely worth a roster spot, but I would classify him as a low-end flex play, rather than a weekly asset for fantasy owners.
Recommendation: Add in Deeper Leagues
Value: Low End RB3/Flex Play
5. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell RB/Cleveland Browns (49.1% and 34.6% Owned)
The Browns running back situation is quickly becoming one of the most frustrating committees to figure out on a weekly basis. It was thought that when Ben Tate came back from a knee injury that he would run away with the job. However, Tate has shown to be nothing more than a complementary piece, having his yards-per-attempt slip in every week.
This week the Browns turned to rookie running back Terrance West as the feature piece of the teams running game out-touching Tate 15-10. Neither back seemed to be very effective as the two combined for just 67 yards rushing in the team’s week 9 win against the Buccaneers.
There were also reports from Browns camp that the other rookie running back, Isaiah Crowell, could once again claim a major role in the Browns offense. Despite head coach Mike Pettine saying the team wanted to get Crowell more involved, the rookie saw zero carries this weekend.
Going forward I expect the Browns to get the two rookies the bulk of the work in the second-half of the season.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
6. Martavis Bryant WR/Pittsburgh Steelers
After not being active for the first 6 weeks of the season, rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has established himself as a legitimate fantasy option going forward.
In the three weeks that Bryant has been on the Steelers active roster, he's had a nose for the end zone. He already has five touchdowns in the last three weeks. Despite having just 10 receptions over the last three games, the rookie has been a consistent threat within the red-zone, using his 6’4” frame and elite athleticism to take advantage of smaller defensive backs.
Going forward I expect Bryant to carve out an even bigger role within what is becoming one of the premier passing attacks in the NFL. Bryant has a chance to keep his hot streak rolling with wide receiver friendly matchups against the Jets and Titans before the team’s bye in week 12. Go out and grab the wide receiver while you can, as he will be a hot commodity on the waiver wire this week.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
Value: Low WR2/Weekly Flex Play
Players to Monitor
1. Adrian Peterson RB/Minnesota Vikings
After missing the majority of the season dealing with off-the-field issues, there are rumors circulating Vikings running back Adrian Peterson may be on track to play again this season. Reports surfaced today that Peterson and his legal team are working towards a plea agreement for the running backs trial for child-abuse. While it is uncertain if Peterson will face any additional punishment from the NFL, the league could decide that Peterson’s suspension from the Vikings could serve as a requisite punishment. If Peterson is available in your league I would recommend stashing him on your roster if you have space available, but make sure you track as to how his legal situation plays out.
2. Carlos Hyde RB/San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore is clearly not the same running back that he was in past seasons, but head coach Jim Harbuagh has been slow to integrate rookie Carlos Hyde into the offense. Hyde has started to see a recent uptick in workload, getting 10 or more carries in three of the teams last five games. Despite more involvement, Hyde has been unable to be a consistent option in the 49ers backfield. Look for the 49ers to continue to limit Gore’s carries going forward, and eventually leading to move of an even split between Gore and Hyde.
3. Kyle Rudolph TE/Minnesota Vikings
As a Vikings fan, I had big expectations for Rudolph going into the season. With Norv Turner now running the offense, I expected Rudolph to establish himself as one of the best young tight ends in the NFL. However Rudolph has once again struggled to stay healthy, and is currently rehabbing a sports hernia injury sustained during the preseason. There is reason for optimism for the Vikings tight end from a fantasy perspective, as early reports have indicated Vikings coaches expect Rudolph to return to the lineup when the team comes back from their week 11 bye. If you are struggling to find production at the TE position, Rudolph could be a sneaky addition that could pay major dividends in the fantasy playoffs.
4. Josh Gordon WR/Cleveland Browns
Josh Gordon is eligible to return to the Browns lineup in week 12. The Browns offense cannot wait to get the wide receiver back, as they have lacked big-play ability from the position all season. If owners were not patient with Gordon early on this season and decided to drop him, I highly recommend adding the star wide receiver before it is too late.
As part of their special mid season edition of the podcast, the Helpers go over their favorite surprises, busts and waiver wire pickups at the midpoint of the fantasy football season. They also vent their frustrations in the 'I can't bench this guy because ________' segment.
All surprise team
QB — Tom Brady
Why he's a surprise: Brady has thrown for 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions since the Pats blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night. Brady is the No. 6 fantasy quarterback this season and a healthy Rob Gronkowski has had a lot to do with that.
RB — Ahmad Bradshaw
Why he's a surprise: The Colts have perfected the way to use him. He's averaging 4.9 yards per carry and has eight total touchdowns. His ADP was the 34th best RB and he's in the top 5 right now.
RB — Christopher Ivory
Why he's a surprise: Drafted as the 46th best running back and has helped the Jets become one of the best run teams in the league. Ivory is on pace for 1,150 yards and 10 touchdowns.
WR — Jeremy Maclin
Why he's a surprise: Maclin is finally breaking out after a series of seasons where he disappointed. Drafted like a WR3 due to his injury last year and inconsistent play throughout his career, Maclin is currently the No. 3 receiver in all of fantasy. He's on pace for more than 1,400 yards.
WR — Golden Tate
Why he's a surprise: Tate has played a lot like Antonio Brown this season. He's making a lot of his yards after the catch and he keeps on producing despite Calvin Johnson being injured and teams keying in on Tate. Tate has also benefited from the Detroit Lions' high octane passing offense, which he didn't have in Seattle's run heavy system last year.
TE — Antonio Gates
Why he's a surprise: Gates has recaptured his touchdown magic this season. His 10 red zone targets is a big reason why.
All bust team
QB — Geno Smith
Why he's a bust: Smith played well at times in 2014. Smith scored 13, 19, 16, 10, -1, 18, 18 and then -6 when he got benched against Buffalo. His rushing numbers gave him some great upside as well. But he just struggles at times still and doesn't have the best team in New York.
QB — Matt Ryan
Why he's a bust: Only putting up 12-to-15 points a game and with the weapons he has, his numbers should really be higher. His offensive line has battled injuries, which hasn't helped either.
RB — Reggie Bush
Why he's a bust: Bush has battled injuries and has just 171 yards on 49 carries and just one touchdown
RB — Toby Gerhart
Why he's a bust: 52 carries, 133 yards and a touchdown led Gerhart to the bench after the Jaguars invested a lot of money to bring him in as their workhorse back.
RB — Zac Stacy
Why he's a bust: His yards per carry average hasn't been where it need to be, and it's looking like Stacy is more of a plodder than we thought.
WR — Danny Amendola
Why he's a bust: Hailed as the next Wes Welker, he hasn't performed like it. Just seven catches for 47 yards.
WR — Brandon Marshall
Why he's a bust: Though he has five touchdown, Marshall has only had one big yardage game which came in Week 6 where he 116 yards.
WR — Pierre Garcon
Why he's a bust: Garcon has proved to be less reliable with the addition of DeSean Jackson and a healthy Jordan Reed. We expected his numbers to go down from last year, but he hasn't been much of a factor with just 39 catches for 443 yards.
TE — Vernon Davis
Why he's a bust: He had that 16 point game in Week 1, but since he hasn't had more than three fantasy points. He was the No. 4 tight end last year and now he's No. 28.