Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

Episode 45: Potential goldmines

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On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss potential situations where future fantasy stars could emerge at various positions. They mention Atlanta's current hole at tight end in addition to Tennessee's questionable backfield and San Diego's inconsistency with Ryan Mathews.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 1 — TE for Atlanta Falcons

Why it's valuable:  Levine Toilolo didn't exactly make a splash in replacement of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Toilolo finished with just two touchdowns in 2014, a disappointing number considering the Falcons passed the ball 628 times which was the second most in the league behind New Orleans. This is an offense that has plenty of ball to go around, and guys like Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rogers shouldn't be seeing nearly as many targets as they have been. Toilolo ended up seeing 54 targets, that's not good enough for this kind of offense. Overall, he established himself as more of a blocker than receiver. We've seen blocking tight ends blossom into dominant receivers before (ex: Julius Thomas in 2013) but it doesn't look like Toilolo will be following in those footsteps.

So with so much opportunity, there's some serious fantasy value to be had at the position should the Falcons sign someone. Jordan Cameron of the Cleveland Browns immediately comes to mind. Cameron set franchise records in touchdowns in 2013 when he was healthy for the first time and reportedly wants out of Cleveland. Should he leave and somehow end up on Atlanta, he would immediately catapult his value to TE1 status despite his injury-prone past.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 2 — RB for Tennessee Titans

Why it's valuable: Next up we have the backfield for the Tennessee Titans. Rookie Bishop Sankey had perhaps the best potential situation for putting up good fantasy numbers but left a lot to be desired on the stat sheet. Sankey finished with just 569 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged a mediocre 3.7 yards per carry. Now, a lot of that had to do with the offensive line and shaky quarterback situation in Tennessee, but it still doesn't reflect well on Sankey considering he was a rookie who was given a good chunk of carries and also failed to make much noise around the goal line. 

The Titans have the No. 2 pick in the draft and although they will probably take a defensive end as most mock drafts are indicating, expect Tennessee to look at other options in the backfield if not just for insurance in case Sankey has a repeat performance of 2014.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 3 — RB for San Diego Chargers

Why it's valuable: Ryan Mathews had another injury-plagued season in 2014 and finished with 330 yards on 74 carries and three touchdowns. Mathews seems to have a good year every other year. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau in years 2011 and 2013, but failed to do so in 2010, 2012 and now 2014. It seems like a good bet to draft Mathews in odd years. Either way, he's been inconsistent enough on a fringe playoff team to warrant some kind of change in the backfield. If someone ends up replacing him, whether it be a rookie or backup running back Branden Oliver or Donald Brown, be sure to weigh the options of drafting that RB over Mathews.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 4 — RB for Atlanta Falcons

Why it's valuable: We mentioned this one in our coaches shuffle podcast earlier last month but it bears repeating. Kyle Shanahan has proven to be a successful running coach and now that he's in Atlanta, expect the coordinator who made a 1,000 yard rusher out of late draft pick Alfred Morris to shake things up in the backfield. Right now, Devonta Freeman looks like the guy Atlanta will be utilizing first, but he struggled at times as a rookie and hasn't shown any sign that he can be a reliable fantasy running back as of yet. This is one situation to monitor because of Shanahan's past success and the wide open backfield in Atlanta. 

Published in Podcasts
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:00

Week 17 pickups

I cannot believe that it is already the end of the fantasy football season. Like all fantasy seasons there have been a mix of ups-and-downs, as well as unknown players taking the leap towards fantasy relevance. If you are in a league that runs through the entire regular season this is your last chance to swoop up players that can help you claim bragging rights over your entire league.

The purpose of my final waiver wire article of the season is to point out a few players that I would have faith plugging into my lineup in a fantasy championship scenario.

Teddy Bridgewater QB/Minnesota Vikings (6.1% Owned)

During the pre-draft process there were many well-known draft pundits out there criticizing Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for what they referred to as “skinny lower-extremities”. Pair a below-average frame with a questionable Pro Day workout and the Minnesota Vikings found themselves in position to land one of the steals of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Bridgewater got his NFL career off to a hot start after tearing apart the Falcons for 300+ passing yards and a rushing touchdown. After the hot start Bridgewater came back down to earth in the next few weeks while battling an inconsistent offensive line and limited offensive firepower.

While some people may still have their doubts about Bridgewater I can assure you that this kid is the real deal. Over the last month of the season Bridgewater has not only established himself as the top rookie quarterback, but as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, ranking 5th in passer rating, 2nd in completion percentage, and 7th in touchdown passes. The rookie quarterback has also had a tendency to feed off of the energy of the home crowd at TCF Bank Stadium, as Bridgewater has had multiple touchdown passes in his last three home games.

In the ever-important fantasy championship week I believe that Bridgewater has a chance to post a monster stat-line against a Bears team that is already making their off-season vacation plans. Opposing quarterbacks have feasted on the Bears defense this season, as they have allowed the most touchdown passes (33), and the second-most passing yards (4,006).

In what will most likely be a low-key week on the waiver wire in terms of transactions, I would rank Bridgewater at the top of my waiver priority big board this week. I expect Bridgewater and the Vikings offense to go out in style in front of the home crowd, allowing Marc Trestman and the rest of the Bears coaching staff to figure out their future coaching plans.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: QB1

Devonta Freeman RB/Atlanta Falcons (1.9% Owned)

If you were to ask me before the season which Falcons running back would lead the team in carries I would have said Devonta Freeman. However, this prediction would not have been one based on talent, but on the durability of the running backs ahead of Freeman on the depth chart. Veteran running back Steven Jackson has somehow been able to stay healthy for a full-season, a feat I would not have imagined in at this point in his career. 

Father time may have finally caught up to Jackson, as he suffered a pulled quad this weekend, allowing Freeman to get an increased role within the Falcons offense. Freeman made the most of his opportunity totaling 36 yards on just 5 carries (7.2 YPA) and one touchdown. Freeman did do the bulk of his work (31/36) on the long touchdown run, but still showed more flashes to be a more dynamic player than current no. 2 running back Jacquizz Rodgers (12/29/0).

A lot of Freemans fantasy potential depends on the ability for Steven Jackson to recover from his injury before the itso-facto playoff game against the Panthers this weekend. Early reports for Jackson’s status seem to indicate that he has a good chance at playing. However, if for some reason Jackson were unable to suit up this weekend I would expect it to be Freeman, not Rodgers, to carry the bulk of the carries for the Falcons offense.

Recommendation: Stash and See

Value: RB3 w/Potential

Ryan Tannehill QB/Miami Dolphins (48.8% Owned)

Despite being one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks throwing the ball down the field, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has quietly put together a season that ranks him as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor has done a fantastic job utilizing Tannehill’s athletic ability within the Dolphins offense this season, using much of the same principles he learned under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.

This week Tannehill goes on my list as one of the best waiver wire additions due to a very owner friendly matchup against the Jets. I know that Tannehill struggled in his first matchup against the Rex Ryan-led defense (235/0/1), but I have a feeling Tannehill will bounce back.

The Jets defense has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. If you are the owner of one of the premier quarterbacks in fantasy football, there is a strong chance that they will not play a full-game if their playoff seeding has already determined. If you are an owner who finds themself in that bind, I would recommend finding another option if you are heading into a championship matchup. While I would still add the likes of Alex Smith and Teddy Bridgewater over Tannehill, I still feel that he has the potential to put up low-end QB1 number due to his owner-friendly matchup.

Recommendation: Add In Deep Leauges

Value: Low QB1

Charles Clay TE/Miami Dolphins (10.6% Owned)

As suspect as the Jets secondary has been in pass coverage this season, they have been especially susceptible to being burned by opposing tight ends, making me think that Charles Clay is going to be in for an increased workload this weekend.

The Jets defense has allowed an average of 11.5 fantasy points per week to opposing tight ends, ranking them as the fifth-worst against the position this season.

Clay has not has the season that many in the Dolphins organization envisioned him having, as he has battled injuries for much of the year just to stay on the cusp of fantasy-relevance throughout the year. Clay is currently the 18th highest scoring tight end in fantasy football, and has been very touchdown-dependent for fantasy success.

Despite just posting 114 receiving yards against the Vikings last I would not expect that type of quality production next week. Clay’s 114 yards was just his first game topping triple-digits this season. In a week that it is crucial to get quality production out of your fantasy players, I would expect Clay to once again shift back to a touchdown-dependent TE1. While I would normally shy away from someone I am not going to get guaranteed production, it is worth pointing out that the Jets have allowed the second most receiving touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.

Albert Wilson WR/Kansas City Chiefs (0.0% Owned)

Now I have to admit when I looked at the Kansas City Chiefs stats over the past three weeks that something called Albert Wilson had racked up 19 targets, a number good enough to rank him second among Chiefs receivers, I let out a resounding “Who?” However, if Wilson continues to carve out meaningful playing time with the Chiefs first-team offense he could establish himself as a popular pick up in dynasty leagues.

Wilson found his way to the Chiefs after signing with the team as a priority UDFA after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft.

While I do not trust Alex Smith to finally be able to get the ball to his receivers on a consistent basis, I believe there is reason to think that Wilson could establish himself as the most consistent fantasy option out of the Chiefs receivers. Standing at 5’9” Wilson is not going to hurt defenses vertically, but what he lacks in deep-play ability, Wilson makes up for with sound route-running, and the ability to make things happen after the catch.

Next week Wilson does have a favorable matchup against a Chargers secondary that is being held together by super glue, giving me reason to believe that Wilson could potentially put a stamp on his rookie season. There is also hope that Alex Smith can finally end the scoreless streak for Chiefs wide receivers, as the Chargers secondary has allowed 5 touchdown receptions to opposing wide receivers in their last four games.

Recommendation: Add In Deep Leagues

Value: WR3/Flex

View June Rivera's Flickr page here.

Published in Waiver Wire
Monday, 01 December 2014 00:00

Week 14 pickups

1.    Kenny Stills WR/New Orleans Saints

After rookie Brandin Cooks was placed on injured reserve with a broken thumb, the Saints were in dire need of a receiver to put stress on defenses vertically. Second year wide receiver Kenny Stills has done just that for the Saints offense, averaging 20 yards per reception over the last two weeks.

After Cooks went down, many assumed that veteran Marques Colston would be the one to fill the void, but over the last two weeks it has been Stills that has taken over as the team’s primary target out of the Saints wide receivers. Over the last two weeks, Stills is leading Saints' receivers in targets (15) and receiving yards (260), showing great chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees. 

Going forward I expect Stills to continue to be the big-play target in the passing game. While he will likely have some duds for games over the next few weeks, Stills’ ability to stretch the field will make him a boom-or-bust WR3 over the final few weeks of the season. 

Recommendation: Add Immediately 

Value: WR3/Flex 

2.    Davante Adams WR/Green Bay Packers

Going into the Packers game against the Patriots this weekend, the main question was 'how would Rodgers attack the Pats' cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner?' Well, turns out Rodgers tried to stay away from the tandem as much as possible, leading to a breakout performance for the Packers no. 3 receiver Davante Adams.

Adams was able to get free from coverage on a consistent basis Sunday, totaling 6 catches on 11 targets for 121 yards. Adams was one drop away from having an even better afternoon, as he let a perfectly placed ball on a slant pass in the end zone slip through his hands.

I have to warn all of you fantasy owners that think Adams is going to be a consistent target in the Packers offense. Over the last three games, he has just four receptions on eight targets. The Packers will not be playing a caliber cornerback tandem like the Patriots for the rest of the season. Despite a relatively easy remaining schedule (Atlanta, Buffalo, Tampa Bay) I do not expect Adams to see enough targets to be a reliable fantasy option. Proceed with caution folks.

Recommendation: Add In Deep Leagues

Value: WR4/Low Flex

3.    Johnny Manziel QB/Cleveland Browns

If you're like me and can't stand the hype that ESPN gives Johnny “Football” Manziel, I would highly recommend keeping your television turned off this week. After starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was pulled after his fifth interception in the last two weeks, the Johnny Manziel-era appears to have officially begun in Cleveland.

Manziel replaced Hoyer in the 4th quarter of garbage time against the Bills and looked relatively good in relief. Manziel finished the day completing 5 of his 8 passes for 63 yards, and one rushing touchdown in typical Johnny Football fashion. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan wanted to use Manziel’s mobility as soon as he entered the game, using boot and play-action passes. Manziel was relativey accurate, although most of his passes were short passes that relied on YAC ability by the wide receivers. 

For all the Manziel-ites out there thinking he's going to come in and have the same success as a starter as he did in relief of Hoyer, I am telling you to pump the brakes a little bit. The Bills spent all week game planning for Hoyer and his strengths and weaknesses, putting the defense at a major disadvantage once the mobile Manziel entered the game. If he still has the same success next week against a Colts defense allowing the 16th fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, I will give the rookie some more credit. 

Recommendation: Stash in Deeper Leagues/Two QB Leagues

Value: QB2

4.    Colt McCoy QB/Washington Redskins

Now that I don't to listen to Robert Griffin III doing his best Bill Belichick impression after being benched in favor of journeyman Colt McCoy, we can finally get back to evaluating the Redskins offense purely from a fantasy perspective. 

In the two games that McCoy started, he's given the Redskins offense a quarterback that looks comfortable running the west-coast offensive system, completing 76% of his passes (56/77) for 691 yards (345.5 Passing YPG), and three touchdowns

It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that Colt McCoy could potentially be a starting quarterback in the NFL. With his slight frame and lack of ideal arm strength, McCoy has the look of a career backup in the NFL. However, with RGIII continuing to regress in his third NFL season, the opportunity is there for McCoy to revitalize his career as long as he plays well. 

Recommendation: Stash In Deep Leagues

Value: QB2

5.    Dan “Boom” Herron RB/Indianapolis Colts

After loosing Ahmad Bradshaw for the rest of the season with a fractured fibula, many NFL pundits assumed that Trent Richardson would regain the bulk of the carries for the Colts offense. However, in typical T-Rich fashion, he has been ineffective once again as the teams starting running back.

In the last two weeks since Bradshaw went down with a season ending injury, Richardson has once again shown that he is incapable to being the lead back for an NFL offense. In the last two weeks Richardson has rushed for 54 yards on 21 carries (2.5 YPC), showing little to no agility or the ability to make people miss. 

With Richardson once again showing to be ineffective, the door was left open for Dan “Boom” Herron to take hold of the starting running back job in Indianapolis. Herron has made the most of his limited opportunities, finishing with a line of 20/153/1 (7.65 YPA) over the past two weeks. Herron has also shown to be a reliable pass catcher, averaging 3.5 receptions per game in the same time frame.

Going forward I fully expect Herron to carve out a bigger role within the Colts offense, as he adds a dimension that Richardson simply does not. With a weak schedule against Cleveland (4th most rushing yards allowed per game), and Houston (13th most fantasy points to opposing RBs) Herron has a chance to be key piece for owners during the fantasy playoffs. 

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: RB2/High Flex

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

Published in Waiver Wire
Sunday, 16 November 2014 00:00

Episode 30: First Aid (Week 11)

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.

Published in Podcasts
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:00

Episode 29: Chronicles of Riddick

On this week's episode of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss their good and bad calls from Week 10, the state of the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions and what to expect from this Thursday's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

The Helpers start off their best and worst calls. First, they hit on Michael Vick, the quarterback for the New York Jets. In his second start, Vick was coming off an impressive start against Kansas City, and he paid off for those who started him. He finished with 132 passing yards and 42 rushing yards. He finished as the seventh overall quarterback for Week 10, showing off the vintage Vick traits which included some nice deep passes and had the New York Jets not have been blowing Pittsburgh out, would've likely thrown for more yards.

One run in particular, came off a scramble which ended up being about a 20-yard run that nearly resulted in a touchdown. Also, Vick had no turnovers, which is something he's had problems with throughout his career.

Fantasy owners have always been wary of Michael Vick and for good reason. His small frame has never lent itself to taking too many big hits in succession. Vick is best used in fantasy as a plug and play guy in good matchups as long as he's healthy.

One miss the Helpers had for Week 10 was Kansas Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who they pegged as a likely bust in a tough matchup against Buffalo. The Bills held Charles in check for three quarters, and Charles only had 29 yards at the end of the first half. But Charles broke a big 40-yard touchdown late in the game which helped his value. Of course, that's not saying that the Helpers were right about Charles — they weren't. But the Bills were one of the best defenses against the run coming in, and they did play well enough to contain Charles for a half. But as all home run hitters do, Charles answered with a big gain which helped him finish with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown on the day. He probably won't be recommended as a bust going forward unless the matchup is exceptionally bad or he's battling some type of injury.

Another player the Helpers dubbed a sleeper for Week 10 was Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick. Riddick came into the Lions matchup against Miami having scored two touchdowns in the last two games and he repeated that feat again. It came on the very last play of the game, but Riddick's score gave him six points which helped fantasy owners who started him get some value.

Riddick and the Lions have another tough matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but starting running back Reggie Bush is still banged up and saw just five touches against Miami. You have to keep Riddick stashed away just in case Bush can't go in Week 11.

Riddick has now scored three touchdowns in his last three games, and appears to have cemented his role as the primary receiver out of the backfield.

Published in Podcasts
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 00:00

Week 11 pickups

View ELZ's Flickr page here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Wait and See

Value: WR5 w/potential

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR2

         Martavis Bryant WR/Pittsburgh Steelers (60.4% Owned)

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

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

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

Published in Waiver Wire
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00

Week 10 pickups

Top Additions

  1. 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

Value: RB2/Flex

       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.

View the link to the photo here.

Published in Waiver Wire
Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00

Week 8 bullet points for RBs

Editor's note: This article is to further explain our weekly running back rankings, which you can find here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 20 September 2014 00:00

Prospect: Allen Robinson

Fresh out of Penn State, drafted in the second round and equipped with a crazy 42-inch vertical leap, a 6'3, 220lb frame that's all juiced up with 4.47 40 speed, Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson has officially landed on the fantasy radar. Based on his recent performances, it's looking like the 21-year old rookie could be in line for solid WR3/flex production going forward.

Owned in just 2 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, Robinson first hinted at his potential in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins. Though Jacksonville played poorly, Robinson led the Jaguars in receiving with 75 yards on four catches and tied for a team-high six targets. He totaled seven fantasy points, and while it's not much, it's still solid considering most WR3's in deep leagues give you less production than that. Also, most potential WR3's aren't available in 98 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.

Robinson played in just 60 percent of the team's snaps in Week 2, which paled in comparison to fellow rookie Allen Hurns, who was on the field for 96 percent of them. Another rookie, Marqise Lee, played in 74 percent of snaps against Washington. Still, Robinson was the more productive player despite seeing less time on the field. Though his biggest catch of 51 yards came in garbage time, fantasy points are fantasy points. When the game ended, it was a sign that Robinson could be in line for more looks going forward.

Robinson's first start

With Lee sidelined due to a hamstring injury in Week 3, Robinson made his first start and didn't disappoint. He tallied 7 receptions for 79 yards which led the Jags. He also totaled 10 targets, the most he's had all season.

Looking ahead, Lee is expected to miss Week 4 as he battles that same injury, and while Hurns managed to turn his only catch against the Colts into a 61-yard touchdown, he wasn't the most sought after player in the Jags' offense with only three targets. It's likely Robinson will continue to remain the focal point of the offense and see anywhere from 10-12 targets consistently from here on out.

His versatility

Another point of intrigue for fantasy owners is how Robinson showed a little bit of everything against the Colts last Sunday. Quarterback Chad Henne targeted Robinson in both the short and deep passing game. Robinson caught slant passes for short yardage, quick screen passes and also showed off his YAC ability after spinning out of a tackle off a curl route  which resulted in his biggest gain of the day of 21 yards. Henne took some shots at Robinson down the field as well, and although he couldn't reel the one deep bomb Henne chucked his way due to double coverage, fantasy owners have to be excited about a player that has that kind of range in terms of the variety of routes he can run.

The fact that Robinson is being targeted in a variety of ways shows he has the potential to be the most complete wide receiver on the Jaguars. As of now, no receiver possesses more physical gifts on the Jags. Shorts is more of a possession receiver who lacks elite speed, as evidenced by his 11.8 yards per catch average last year which ranked 70th in the league. His fellow rookie, Lee, is more of an undersized burner at 6'0. Lastly, Hurns stands a lengthy 6'3 but lacks the size of Robinson at just 194 lbs and while he burst onto the scene early against Philadelphia, hasn't really shown much since and dropped a key touchdown against Washington in Week 2.

Bortles Combat

Down 30-0, the Jaguars handed the keys over to rookie Blake Bortles, who immediately slung the ball all over the field recklessly in his first outing. Robinson was one of his go-to guys early on, as Bortles took two deep shots at Robinson early. One went for an in completion while another was intercepted.

Based on Bortles first performance, he's looking like a guy who puts a lot of trust in his arm. His bold decision making (as with most rookies) will likely lead to some mistakes as he learns the playbook, but could also result in big plays due to his ability to throw it deep. One thing's for sure, he likes Robinson as his throws accounted for the majority of Robinson's targets.

Final verdict

Jacksonville faces two middle-of-the-road passing defenses in San Diego and Pittsburgh next. There will be plenty of chances for Bortles to develop a chemistry with Robinson that isn't marred by tough matchups. Between his talent, the injury to Lee and Blake I-know-I'm-a-rookie-so-I-can-make-big-throws-and-blame-my-interceptions-on-inexperience Bortles, that elusive touchdown is coming for Robinson. He should be owned across all leagues. As Lloyd told Harry when they approached those folk-singing hitchhikers in their sheep dog van, 'pick em up!'

 

View Clint Mickel's flickr page here

Published in Waiver Wire
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 00:00

Prospect: Isaiah Crowell

Image courtesy of Erik Drost

There have been a lot of changes to the Cleveland Browns since last season. A pass-happy team in 2013, there's reason to believe the running game may be creeping its way back into the team's philosophy this season. But with no convincing No. 1 running back on its roster just yet, it leaves room for speculation regarding who the best fantasy running back could be in Cleveland for 2014.

It all started with a shift in management. Vertical passing enthusiast Norv Turner took his talents to Minnesota and was replaced by former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, a guy who's often been jokingly referred to as an 'anti-fantasy football' coordinator. Alfred Morris owner's from 2013 can attest to that. You could play a sad violin for Morris owners last season, as they saw their touchdown points gobbled up when Shanhan opted to dial up several doses of Roy Helu on the goal line last season. Morris still went on to have a solid season in 2013 with 1,275 rushing yards, but his touchdown total nearly halved after he finished with 7 compared to the 13 he had during his rookie season.

Unlike Turner, Shanahan's offensive philosophy centers around a balance of run and pass. He has proven effective at managing quarterbacks with vastly different styles as well. He helped Texans' Matt Schaub throw for a lot of yards in Houston and also ushered in the zone-read in Washington under the athletic Robert Griffin III. With Shanahan's equally favored approach to both the ground and aerial game, it creates some fantasy intrigue for owner's who may be looking at some stat potential out of the Browns backfield. It can't get much worse for Cleveland in the running category from 2013, as the Browns ranked 30th in rushing attempts with 348.

A good fantasy running back is made in the trenches

A good running game starts with the guys up front, and the Cleveland Browns have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Center Alex Mack is a two-time pro bowler and has been a fixture on the Browns' offensive line since Cleveland drafted him in 2009. Mack provided the blocking for several highlight games early in his career, including Jerome Harrison's 286-yard rushing effort which ranked third-most all time for one game. 

Left tackle Joe Thomas remains one of the best pass protectors in the league, though the Browns one weakness could be at right tackle with Mitchell Schwartz. Schwartz was a liability in pass protection last year, and while Shanahan believes he's a good fit for his zone-blocking scheme, one has to wonder if the 6'5, 320 lb Schwartz will be able to hack a run offense usually designed for more athletic lineman.

Schwartz was such a liability in fact that the Browns used plenty of resources to cover up for him. According to pro football focus, the Browns led the league in chip blocks for both the running back and tight end positions last season to help alleviate some of their protection problems. However, that may be a tougher task this season due to their inexperienced backfield.

The current crop of running backs may not be best suited for providing quality pass protection. According to pro football focus, current starting running back Ben Tate ranked 39th in pass blocking efficiency in a pool of 46 running backs who saw at least 40 pass blocking snaps last year. Behind Tate, you have two rookies in Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell who both of which weren't known as pass blockers in college.

Enter Crowell

We mentioned his name finally, and the undrafted rookie out of Alabama State has some upside for stashing on your roster right now.

Crowell's college career started off very promising. He landed a starting spot with the Georgia Bulldogs when he was just a freshman. Playing against several vaunted defenses in the SEC, Crowell went on to have several big games including a 30-carry, 147-yard performance against Ole Miss. He finished his freshman year with 856 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, but it was disciplinary problems that kept him from continuing what looked like a future successful collegiate career with the Bulldogs.

The following season, Crowell was dismissed from Georgia after he was arrested on a drug charge. He ended up enrolling at Alabama State and finished as the leading rusher at Alabama State and led the Hornets to a 7-4 record.

Some of his highlights can be seen in the video below. His run at the :37 second mark of this video is especially impressive.

Why he's worth a roster stash on your fantasy team

Current starter Ben Tate is expected to be an every-down back for Cleveland starting out, which isn't surprising considering the fifth-year RB has proven reliable with a respectable 4.7 ypc average while playing behind Arian Foster in Houston for three seasons. Still, it's Tate's first go in the workhorse role, which is a job only a handful of running backs have proven able to hack at a consistent level. Tate played in only 11 games in 2012 and was eventually placed on injury reserve with cracked ribs in 2013, so durability may also be an issue. 

Current No. 2 running back West struggled during preseason, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Crowell, on the other hand, notched 105 yards on 15 carries (7 YPC) and a touchdown. If Crowell can keep his previous run ins with the law a thing of the past, he's got real potential to be a starter on the Browns at some point if the chips fall the right way.

Published in Waiver Wire

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