• Buy Low Targets, April Edition

    The NFL season may be months away but it is never too early to look for some ADPs that stick out. Each month, from April until September, I will be giving you a buy-low target at each position. I expect these players ADP to steadily move up as the season approaches.

    Kirk Cousins | QB12

    Kirk Cousins, according to MFL ADP data (12 team, PPR, Re-Draft) is going off the board as the 12th QB. This is a guy who has finished the last two seasons as a top-10 QB. Last season, Cousins was the QB5 and averaged 20.6 FPs per game. His .48 points per dropback (PPDB) was good enough for 9th among QBs. Cousins did lose Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency but the additions of Terrelle Pryor, Brian Quick, and a healthy Josh Doctson should, not only mitigate those loses but actually be a net improvement on overall talent.

    T.J. Yeldon | RB44

    T.J. Yeldon is not a name that jumps off the page as a sexy draft target but RB44 in a PPR scoring system is too low. Last season, Yeldon played in 15 games and was targeted 60 times. His 50 catches were the main contributor to him becoming RB33 last season but at 23, Yeldon still has time to prove himself as an every-down back. But what if the Jags make the mistake of drafting Leonard Fournette? I think that this would cement Yeldon as a passing down specialist with a 60 catch upside.

    Paul Richardson | WR91

    Paul Richardson is a guy who has always had the talent to flourish in the NFL, he just hasn’t had the health. Last season, we saw glimpses of Richardson’s potential but for some reason, fantasy owners are not jumping on the Richardson bandwagon. Including the playoffs, last season Richardson had 28 catches for 419 yards and a YPT of 10.2 which is similar to other slightly-built players like Brandin Cooks and T.Y. Hilton. I believe that Richardson will be a starting WR for the Seahawks this year and easily become a top-50 WR.

    Tyler Higbee | TE23

    Tyler Higbee is bound to draw comparisons to Jordan Reed at some point this off-season. There isn’t a ton of player comp available on Higbee because he doesn’t have a Burst Score, Agility Score, or Catch Radius. That said, he is known to be an athletic guy playing TE in Sean McVey’s system. If Jared Goff can improve (can only go up from where he’s at TBH) his performance, I think Higbee is a lock to be a top-15 TE this coming season.

  • The Fantasy Football Arm-Chair GM Rookie Symposium

    Now that Free Agency Frenzy has settled down these past several weeks, all fantasy football owners are eyeing the NFL Draft which will be held April 27-29 as the last true roster shakeup before OTA’s begin shortly thereafter. Of course, the total unknown for us fantasy owners is where will the well-known and most celebrated skill position players land when those 3 days are over. And this is where yours truly, the resident arm-chair GM comes in, to guide you through these series of articles that will try to surmise where the best fantasy football fit will be for those players for the upcoming season.

    Leonard Fournette | RB

    New York Jets- Drafting in the 6th spot, they can go a myriad of directions, but there’s a chance Fournette could be on their radar as part of their rebuilding plan. Matt Forte, who is 30 years old, and Bilal Powell are both essentially finesse running backs and the Jets need a power back to control the clock and be the foundation of their offense since the quarterback position is in flux going into the 2017 season.

    Carolina Panthers- With the recent news of Cam Newton’s surgery to repair a partially torn right rotator cuff, it would seem to make logical sense for GM Dave Gettleman to strengthen the running game and draft Fournette with the 8th pick. Although Jonathan Stewart did receive a 1-year contract extension, he is 30 years old, has a well-known injury history, and the primary backups are Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne. Fournette would bolster the ground game by being the short-yardage and goal line back instead of Newton.

    Jacksonville Jaguars- On the surface it wouldn’t seem that the Jags would have any interest in Fournette since they did add Chris Ivory as a free agent last season, but new Director of Football Operations, Tom Coughlin, wants this offense to be more physical, bruising, and smash-mouth and they could believe that Fournette fits the profile more than Ivory. TJ Yeldon will remain the 3rd down, change-of-pace back for Jacksonville. Now, where does this leave Ivory in this possible scenario? A trade or outright release are two options the Jaguars may be open to.

     

    Dalvin Cook | RB

    Green Bay Packers- The Packers has startlingly little depth at the RB position and perhaps this is the year GM Ted Thompson decides to draft a multi-faceted running back with the 29th pick which will compliment Aaron Rodgers’ potent offense. Ty Montgomery, who spent the last half of the season in the backfield, will go into 2017 as a full-time running back but no one expects him to handle a full load and the recently re-signed Christine Michael, who always teases his ability, but rarely does it show up in a consistent manner. They are the only running backs under contract for Green Bay, therefore, adding Cook’s ability to play all 3-downs would be an invaluable asset to their offense in the long run. But first, he needs to master pass blocking or he’ll never get on the field.

    Washington Redskins- At the 17th drafting slot, it may see a little bit of a reach for them to take Cook, but he has a chance to get opportunities immediately since the team hasn’t been given incumbent Robert Kelley the stamp of approval and named him the starting running back. Matt Jones, the other running back who did start the season, may be released or traded to make room for a rookie running back (like Cook perhaps). There will be a new look at the wide receiver position since both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson left via free agency but replaced them with Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick but they may need a consistent running game early in the season before the new targets get acclimated to Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense and that’s where Dalvin Cook can be very useful in controlling the clock or being an outlet in the passing game. Washington could use some playmaking/explosiveness in the backfield and Cook fits the bill nicely.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers- With the 4-game suspension of Doug Martin to begin the season, Tampa might be in the market for another younger, cheaper running back and Cook may be the answer. Yes, yes, I know that they re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims is still on the roster, but Dalvin Cook has the versatility to be on the field for all 3 downs and perhaps he can be Tampa’s consistent running game to go along with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, and newly acquired DeSean Jackson and be a more diverse and explosive offense.

     

    Christian McCaffrey | RB

    Philadelphia Eagles- Let’s make no mistake about it: The Eagles running game needs an infusion of talent, toughness, and quickness to help the development of their second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz. Since the Eagles did upgrade the wide receiver corps with the signings of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, it would make logical sense for them to add a running back and they might use the 14th pick in the draft for the sole purpose to target McCaffrey because of his talent, versatility, and underrated toughness. He can be used as a receiver, punt/kickoff returner, or as a running back. The running back depth chart will not be as crowded as you would believe; Ryan Mathews might be released, Darren Sproles is 34 years old and is more dangerous as a punt returner and receiver out of the backfield, and Wendell Smallwood is the second year back trying to prove himself in the league. So if McCaffrey can make a mark for the Eagles during OTA’s, training camp, and the pre-season, he’s a weapon that could make the Eagles a more potent team in the NFC East.

    Indianapolis Colts- Frank Gore is 34 years old and can’t continue being the starting running back forever; so the Colts new GM Chris Ballard should be looking for his heir apparent and if he should choose, selecting Andrew Luck’s fellow Stanford alum in McCaffrey would be a prudent choice. He would be an asset in the passing game since the Colts do like to use their running backs as outlets for Luck; his return game skills may take some unnecessary pounding off of TY Hilton, and he could make the Colts running game a viable option if the passing game were to struggle during the season.

    Green Bay Packers- If the Packers decide to pass on Cook, drafting McCaffrey instead may even be a better fit with this rather potent passing offense. The virtual “swiss army knife” can be positioned anywhere on the field (backfield, slot, outside the numbers) and create mismatches for head coach Mike McCarthy to take advantage of and be a valuable weapon for Aaron Rodgers. His dynamic return skills can not only give the Packers offense great field position, it can allow Randall Cobb to focus 100 percent on becoming the best wide receiver he can be. As for the running game, it could be a dynamic 1-2 punch with Ty Montgomery in the beginning, but that may cap both of their fantasy ceilings, but he has the potential to be fantasy relevant.

     

    Corey Davis | WR

    Tennessee Titans- At first glance, it may seem odd that I have the Titans here as a possible landing spot for Davis, but let me explain my reasoning. Although their offensive profile is “exotic-smashmouth”, using one of the two first-round picks (likely the 18th pick), Tennessee drafting Davis would be a plus expected value move because he’s an additional weapon at the wide receiver position to go along with Rishard Matthews and he helps the franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota. The sooner Davis becomes the starter and becomes a tangible threat, the sooner defenses account for him and then the running game featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry can REALLY go to town on opposing teams.

    Arizona Cardinals- Eventually the Cardinals will need a replacement for the future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald who will turn 34 August 31st.  Drafting 13th, Arizona may want to look at Davis as Fitzgerald’s possible heir apparent and another weapon to go along with John Brown, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, and Jermaine Gresham for Carson Palmer to play with. It may be hard for Davis to crack the starting lineup when the season opens, but his performance during OTA’s and training camp may determine his snap count and target shares early in the season.

    The possibility exists that he will come on in the second half of the year once he has a better grasp of the Cardinals’ offensive scheme. Keep him on your fantasy radar if for some reason an injury occurs in the wide receiver corps; he will get a definite snap count and target share increase.

    Mike Williams | WR

    Buffalo Bills- There’s a gaping hole at the wide receiver position and the Bills desperately need to fill it since they decided to re-sign Tyrod Taylor and make him their quarterback for the foreseeable future. Both Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, who spent their entire careers with the Bills, left via free agency. Their departure leaves a substantial number of targets to be filled and the depth chart behind incumbent Sammy Watkins leaves little to be desired so it’s extremely plausible that Williams could be the starter beside with Sammy for Week 1 of the regular season. Therefore his fantasy value would be as a solid WR2 since both of them will soak up all of the snaps and targets at the receiver position.

    Baltimore Ravens- This is another team with a target vacuum at the wide receiver position with the retirement of Steve Smith, Sr. and the departure of Kamar Aiken. The presumed starters are the veteran speedster Mike Wallace and their 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman so there’s some chance for a drafted receiver (like Mike Williams) to get some snaps, targets, and receptions if they grasp the offense rather quickly. Under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the Ravens have become a much more passing team and Mike Williams should fit right in and become a fantasy relevant wide receiver in the range of a WR3 with WR2 upside.

    Now let me leave you with one small bit of advice: When watching the coverage of the NFL Draft during the 3-day period, don’t overlook the Day 2 or Day 3 draft picks; they may wind up being fantasy football hidden gems that may help you to the elusive championship in the fall. Better yet, I’ll do the service of listing some of those players in Part 2 of my Rookie Symposium series.

     

    Your fantasy football arm-chair GM,

    Michael Stepney

    FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

    Photo Links:

    http://footballscoop.com/news/snakes-chasing-stanfords-christian-mccaffrey/

    http://www.scout.com/college/football/story/1699567-2016-preseason-heisman-watch-list

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/no-combine-or-pro-day-for-western-michigans-corey-davis-after-ankle-surgery/

    http://www.ohio.com/sports/college-football/college-football-clemson-wide-receivers-mike-williams-deon-cain-will-play-against-alabama-1.738077

    http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/sports/college/story/2015/sep/19/fournette-powers-no-13-lsu-past-no-18-auburn-45-21/326090/

  • Blind Vision- How Going Blind Has Helped Me Win Fantasy Football Titles

    By: Tom Petrillo aka @tpetrillo80

    Watching 50 hours a week of game film, watching all the highlight shows on the different platforms, watching all the games every week. Whether from NFL analysts or fantasy analysts this is what you're constantly bombarded with. For the first 32 years of my life, I was like everybody else in America and bought into this concept. But now I know differently. This is my story.
    Almost 5 years ago, I went blind due to my poor life choices and not taking care of my diabetes for a decade and a half. I knew many aspects of my life would change. I would never be able to drive again, it would be difficult for me to ever find a job, and the most difficult of all, I would never physically see any of my family and friends again. That is why I sleep a lot. When I sleep, I dream. When I dream I have visions of my family and friends. What they looked like the last time I could see them and it brings me some form of comfort.

    One thing I did not immediately realize is how it would drastically change how I follow sports. I can't watch the game film anymore, Neither can I watch the highlights or the games on Sunday. But I can still follow it, and in many ways, I feel like I can follow it better than those who have sight.

    Everybody remembers watching some player nobody's ever heard of rip off a 70-yard run, spinning like Barry Sanders and juking the defenders out of their cleats and immediately running out the next week and plucking that guy off waivers. I'm guilty of it just as much as the next guy.

    But now, I may have heard about that 70-yard run, but I could not see him make the miraculous moves that want you to go out and get him. I look at the stat line, and I see 26 rushes for 99 yards. I won’t be enamored by the 70-yard run. I will hear the stat line and be unencumbered by the highlights and can focus on the numbers. This has helped me avoid busts like Joseph Randle and C.J. Spiller in the past. I like to call this blind vision. It has not only helped me in fantasy football in which I have one at least one championship every year since I went blind.

    It also helps me in life. It helps me talk to people, which I have done a lot more since I went blind. When I could see, I could never give oral reports or stand up in front of anybody and give speeches. Now that I am blind and I can't see who is in front of me I am able to talk to a lot more people, we get to know each other's true selves because I listen to them. I don't make snap judgments based on what they look like or what they're wearing but I get to know the heart of the person by the words they speak.

    I truly feel that going blind has not been a hindrance for me but a blessing. I'm still alive, I am still kicking and most importantly I am meeting true human beings. In many ways, these individuals have a truer sight than those who have 20/20 vision. If everybody went blind for six months this world would be a much better place.

    Oh! And one public service announcement for all those sports commentators out there, when you go to commercial breaks or especially at the end of the game announce the score. Do your blind sports fans a favor and give us the score, paint us a picture, and announce the game.

  • Rookie Profile: Patrick Mahomes

    Comparison: Cam Newton

    Best Fit: Houston Texans

    The Texans are an incredibly talented team, on both sides of the ball, and have one of the best coaching staffs in the league. Bill O’Brien, a proven quarterback guru, (who has won games with Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Brandon Weedon, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett) would be the best coach to fix Mahomes’ mechanical issues and place him in a position to succeed.

    Mahomes is at his best when he plays freely and O’Brien would instil confidence in him, allowing him to do what he does best. Behind a solid offensive line, and in theory a solid running game, Mahomes and his huge arm could utilise one of the most explosive and dynamic receiving corps in the league with DeAndre Hopkins, second year burner Will Fuller and an all-world athlete in Braxton Miller. This Texans offense could in theory be reminiscent of an air-raid Texas Tech offense, built on big passing plays and high-flying, high-scoring offense. With all of the blue-chip pieces the Texans have in place on offense, fantasy owners everywhere would be desperate to see a situation like this happen and bring fantasy relevance back to Houston.

    Scouting Report

    Mahomes presents himself as one of the more intriguing players in the entire 2017 draft. From a glance at a far he certainly appears to be a special player. With one of the biggest arms in recent memory, Mahomes has put up huge numbers (as is the trend for Texas Tech quarterbacks) in the Kliff Kingsbury offense over the past two years while in the starting role and has a highlight reel to rival any and all. However, on closer inspection many mechanical flaws can be identified with Mahomes’ throwing motion and footwork in particular and herein lies the division of opinions on his draft stock.

    Mahomes fans will state that his production speaks for itself and this cannot be argued with. 5,052 yards, 53 total touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in only 12 games is outstanding production undoubtedly. However, much like another Big 12 team in Baylor, Texas Tech’s offensive system is geared towards producing video-game statistics and not towards preparing players for pro-style offenses. Ex-Baylor and New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty also had gaudy numbers at the collegiate level yet that has failed to translate in the NFL. Detractors of Mahomes will also cite a total of 27 sacks taken in 2016 also. Mahomes may be 6’3’’ and 230 lbs, yet no rookie quarterback can sustain that kind of beating in the NFL.

    The biggest flaw of Mahomes however is his mechanics. His rare arm talent allowed him to overcome this at the college level yet NFL defenses are faster, stronger and more complicated. Poor mechanics breed bad throws and bad throws often result in interceptions. Mahomes rarely sets his feet or steps into throws and so loses both extra power and accuracy. His unstable base throws off his upper body mechanics too meaning that his shoulders are never flat at release, a trait that results in looping, easily intercepted passes.

    Mahomes cleaned up his footwork at the NFL Combine last week yet anyone can appear fleet-footed when there is no real opposition. Mechanical fixes are a lengthy process and are only proven when quarterbacks are put under pressure. Mahomes and his future NFL team could follow the Cam Newton and Carolina Panthers model in order to develop him as a player. Newton struggled with similar mechanical flaws to Mahomes coming out of college, relying on his arm over his mechanics and while he had minor success in his first few seasons it was not until Newton spent a full offseason fixing his mechanics that we saw his full MVP level potential.

    As the raw prospect he is now, Mahomes would be much better suited to becoming a back-up and sitting behind a veteran while he develops. This model allowed Aaron Rodgers to sit and observe Brett Favre in Green Bay while fixing his own mechanical issues. However, it is very believable that if Mahomes was forced into the starting line-up due to an injury that he could have surprising success. His knack for making ‘wow’, big threat plays could very easily steer a team to a small string of victories however if placed in the spotlight for too long it is easy to see defenses figuring out ways to stop Mahomes. If this was to happen it may be worth taking a shot on Mahomes in your line-up for a few weeks. There is no reward without risk.

    Follow Will on twitter @willpendosports

     

  • The Fantasy Football Arm-Chair GM Free Agency Primer

     It's the middle of February and you're eagerly awaiting the NFL Combine, which signals the unofficial beginning of the new league year. But, the actual start of the new league year coincides with the start of free agency, March 9th. This is the first component of team building (the Free Agency Frenzy) with all 32 teams jockeying for position to acquire player(s) that could change their fortunes and jump-start their chances to reach the playoffs, or perhaps even a Super Bowl. The second component of team building for the 2017 season is the NFL Draft (which runs April 27th-29th) and is where most teams would want to build the core of their team through. And, there will undoubtedly be several rookies that will make a sizeable impact for their respective NFL teams this season, and ipso facto your fantasy team.

    Of course, the question you’re probably asking me is: “What the hell does this have to do with my fantasy football team?” My answer is: “If you give me a thousand words, I’ll gladly show you the correlation between free agency, the draft, and fantasy football.”

    Free Agency

    Free Agency is a tool that as a fantasy football owner you must continually monitor to get the latest information because player value and production can wildly fluctuate depending on what team he signs with and the offense he will be in. It is also useful in a predictive fashion too, you can take a look at the “markets” that have been set for certain positions and use that information to anticipate the moves of both players and teams.

    NFL Draft

    Now as for the Draft, a rookie can show up immediately and impress the offensive coaching staff and be rewarded with more playing time with the No. 1 offense and be a surprise playmaker to increase his fantasy value to owners who are looking for that hidden gem.

    Now that’s been fully explained, let’s cut to the chase and look at the important impending free agents and see where they may have a big fantasy impact for the 2017 season:

    Alshon Jeffrey | WR

    Suffice it to say Jeffrey very easily could have been the winner of the shitty timing award when it came to having a down statistical year and being suspended 4 games for PED use before his walk year. Fortunately, the cap keeps rising, the crop around him is weak and he is perhaps the top name on the market (possibly at any position).  I believe that he’ll get huge interest from teams looking for a physical, big-bodied WR1 who can make contested catches and is a potent red-zone threat. It is entirely possible that Jeffrey will sign a contract making him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the entire NFL. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if he came away with one of the biggest contracts ever recorded for a wide receiver, that is simply where we are now with this cap rising and the lack of talent out on the open market. (For what it is worth I could see him making around $18 million dollars a season, making him the top prize in the free agent market).

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Ravens, 49ers, Buccaneers

    Kenny Stills | WR  

    If you look at his “surface” numbers, nothing about Stills’ season screams “high-priority” free agent, but if you do that, I’d simply reply with “When I can join your league?”  Stills’ yard per catch (YPC) since the New Orleans Saints made him the 144th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft has been above 14.0, meaning whenever the ball comes his way, it’s usually for a huge chunk play down the field. All he needs is a legitimate chance to be the WR2 in an offense and his statistics have a chance to rise exponentially. Plus, he has an advantage that GM’s crave:  He’s a young veteran entering his free agency period (He will turn 26 on April 22nd).

    Potential suitors: Dolphins, Eagles, Buccaneers

    DeSean Jackson | WR

    Now, here’s the other prize jewel of the wide receiver free agent crop! Everyone under the sun knows what D-Jax is all about: taking deep shots, yards-after-catch, and of course scoring touchdowns. With his time with Washington seemingly coming to an end (IF you believe the media reports coming out of D.C.) His services are available to the highest bidder (he’s all about getting his paper). But, he did say that he wanted to play with a GREAT quarterback. Notwithstanding trying to get a nice contract for himself, the next team that acquires him will immediately get a playmaker, game breaker, & someone who tilts the field dramatically for the offense; he truly is a player who takes the top off of the defense.

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Buccaneers, 49ers

    Terrelle Pryor | WR

    The former quarterback, who switched positions after flaming out as the signal caller in Oakland, broke the 1,000-yard barrier in his first full season as a wide receiver (and this came with the carousel of epic mediocrity that the Cleveland Browns ran out at quarterback last season). While some maturity questions may still linger with Pryor, his play last season showed glimpses of even a higher ceiling. If the Browns are smart, they will aggressively attempt to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract, which shouldn’t be difficult seeing they have the most cap space in the entire NFL.

    Potential suitors: Browns, Buccaneers, 49ers

     

    The QB free agent class this year isn’t comprised of any franchise type, but there are several who could make a team markedly better. Mike Glennon, who has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay, is seeking to become a starter and will cash in with a nice starter-level contract (or become the highest paid backup in the league, outside of Brock Osweiler I suppose). Jay Cutler will probably be cut from the Bears and despite having great natural throwing talent, his maddening inconsistency and propensity for throwing back-breaking interceptions may prevent him from being pursued as anything more than a bridge quarterback again. Kirk Cousins may seek a trade to the 49ers from Washington to play with his old offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is also their newly named head coach, but the reality is he will probably end up playing one more season in Washington under the franchise tag before totally redefining the quarterback market next season as the most sought after free agent.

    Martellus Bennett | TE

    The mercurial, but talented tight end finally seemed to find a home in New England with Brady and Belichick. Bennett turned into a savvy low-cost investment with the season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski; he was an integral piece to the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI and now he’s hitting free agency at the absolute perfect time. At the moment, with the uncertainty of Gronk’s health coming into the 2017 season, it would behoove the Patriots to make a reasonable offer to keep Bennett in the fold. Watch for the NY Giants to possibly make a play for Bennett since they have a glaring need at the TE position, reuniting him with a quarterback and offense scheme where he’s already had previous success.

    Potential suitors: Patriots, Giants, Lions  

    LeGarrette Blount | RB

    The hammer of the Pats running game had a career year with 18 rushing TDs (no, that’s a typo!) and helped the Pats win their 5th Super Bowl as a franchise. Now Blount hits free agency with a lot of momentum behind him and is probably looking at a long-term contract with some nice guarantees worked in. It’s possible that Mr. Blount finds his market to be cooler than anticipated when you factor in his age (he will be 30 at the start of next season) and the issues he has already with the league. I could see a team like the Raiders making a play for his services to replace Latavius Murray should he depart via free agency.

    Potential suitors: Patriots, Raiders, Packers

    Danny Woodhead | RB

    The versatile, tough as nails, red zone magnet is recovering from an ACL tear suffered early in the 2016 season and is currently a free agent. His production as a member of the Chargers has warranted at least a 1-yr incentive based contract with a team that needs a steady, veteran running back with a nose for the end zone. Inevitably some fantasy football pundits will look at Woodhead and argue this: “he’s suffered 2 season-ending injuries the last 2 years, he’s getting brittle or injury-prone”.

    My retort would be: “Don’t be afraid to take low-cost risks for high-leverage gains.” Woodhead will make any team in the NFL better because of his knowledge, toughness, and ability to score TD’s. The Los Angeles Chargers would be wise to sign him back to team with Melvin Gordon and they will have a formidable 1-2 punch in their backfield.

    Potential suitors: Chargers, Packers, Colts, Rams, Buccaneers

     

    As of March 4th, two big name running backs and a wide receiver, who are also 30+ years of age, were released by their respective teams making them unrestricted free agents available to sign with any team.

    Adrian Peterson | RB

    To the surprise of no one, the Vikings made the proactive decision to release their all-time leading rusher since they weren’t going to go into the 2017 season paying a 31-year old (He’ll be 32 in March) running back $18 million, especially considering he suffered his second major knee injury in as many years last season. The early release gives Peterson and his agent a chance to get to test the free agent running back market and see if there’s a team willing to give Peterson a contract of his suiting when free agency begins. If not, it is entirely possible he could come back home to the Vikings, but at a much lower price.

    Potential suitors: Vikings, Giants, Seahawks

    Jamaal Charles | RB

    After 9 very productive seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs released the 30-year old running back deciding to go with Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and the recently signed CJ Spiller as their main backfield. I still believe that Charles has something left in the tank and it would be an interesting move for a team looking for a running back that can be a home run hitter and a dynamic playmaker (Hello Eagles). He averaged 5.0 yards a carry or better in 7 of his first 8 seasons (He averaged 4.97 in 2013). But his 2016 season was derailed by recurring problems with both knees, and he struggled to get on the field.

    As being a fantasy football GM goes, it would be a next level move to take a late flier in summer drafts on Jamaal Charles being able to recapture some of his former glory more than Peterson. He’s a power back with declining yards per carry for the last several years and Charles needs fewer touches to be a factor whether through running the ball or being a pass receiver out of the backfield.

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Colts, Raiders, Packers

    Brandon Marshall | WR

    On March 2nd, it was announced that the New York Jets will give Marshall his unconditional release, although they did offer him a contract for the 2017 season per various media reports. However, Marshall is seeking a chance to win a championship with another team and asked for his release in order to find a franchise that is not in the midst of a complete rebuild. I personally believe Marshall has something left in the tank and teams on the precipice of a playoff berth should be looking at him for that missing piece.

    Potential suitors: Ravens, Cowboys, Patriots, Raiders  

     

    In closing, when it comes to the correlation between free agency and fantasy football, be cognizant of all the major media reports/signings when it begins March 9th. It could radically affect who you’re thinking about taking in your league drafts later in the summer. Stay a top of all news coming from the team’s beat writers to see who’s doing well and who’s struggling.

    Don’t be content reading out of date magazines; be proactive instead of reactive. That’s why I’m here to keep you up-to-date with all of the NFL transactions relevant to fantasy football.

     

    FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

    Hoping to make your fantasy football season much easier and fun.

    Your fantasy football GM,

    Michael Stepney(@MStepney71)

  • Perfect Match: Finding The Next Zeke, Pt. 3

    Last Year around this time draftniks began floating the idea, “What if Zeke goes to Dallas?” It was a perfect landing spot for him, great OL, veteran QB (or so we thought), and an amazing skill set that would allow him to play 3-downs from the beginning. Sure enough, that is where Zeke found himself and the rest is history.

    But how will that affect us in 2017?

    It will surely touch off a “search for the next Ezekiel Elliott.”

    In the final installment of Perfect Match, I will pair a major piece of shit with one of the games with one of the game’s most storied franchises. I’ll also match one of the most physically gifted TE prospects in years with a team begging for another offensive weapon and I’ll match another TE with an innovative first-time coach.

    Joe Mixon- I didn’t exactly bury the lede with my description of Joe Mixon. By now, we have all seen the videos of him doing a despicable act of violence. We live in a society, however, that gives second chances to talented individuals. Fortunately for Mixon, he is one of the most talented RBs in the world. At 6’1 226, Joe Mixon may be the most physically gifted RB in this year’s draft. He can mix speed with power and his catching ability is a legitimate strength. What is most impressive with Mixon are his feet. He has some absolutely amazing footwork when negotiating a hole.

    Perfect Match- I think the perfect match for Joe Mixon would be in Green Bay. The Packers will most definitely be looking for an RB in the draft, possibly even two. If you recall, Eddie Lacy was drafted alongside Johnathan Franklin (forced into retirement due to injuries), so Ted Thompson is no stranger to loading up on rookie RBs. Mixon’s dynamic playmaking ability would be a major upgrade for the position and in many ways, Mixon is like a rich man’s Ty Montgomery. With Mixon and Montgomery on the field at the same time, the Packers could get very creative with their packages, almost always getting one of the two lined up across from an LB.

    Best Case/Worst Case- I think the Joe Mixon’s best case scenario involves him developing into a Le’Veon Bell-type RB. He has even displayed some of Bell’s trademark patience during his time at Oklahoma. Worst case scenario for Mixon is a who’s who of talented players who have fallen by the wayside due to character concerns. Let’s hope he doesn’t go the way of the Ray McDonalds and Greg Hardys of the world.

    David Njoku- David Njoku is an elite athlete for the TE position. In H.S., Njoku was a national high jump champion. At 6’4 245 lbs, he has the prototypical build for a TE in today’s NFL. In his time at Miami, Njoku showed the ability to be a deep threat, as well as, a zone-buster. I think his elite athleticism will be on display at the combine, where he will skyrocket up draft boards.

    Perfect Match- The perfect match for Njoku is the New York Giants. The Giants have had a gaping hole at TE for years which has left Eli without a valuable option in the passing game. But even UDFA guys like Will Tye have found success in short periods at TE for the Giants. If Njoku were to be drafted by the Giants, he and OBJ would immediately become one of the most athletic WR-TE tandems in the league. With Sterling Shepard being exclusively a slot guy, the Giants need a TE with the versatility of Njoku to open up the offense and give Manning another homerun threat in the passing game.

    Best Case/Worst Case­- David Njoku has all of the tools to become a star in the NFL but he merely lacks experience at the position. Another guy who lacked experience at the position who went on to do great things was Antonio Gates. Did you know he played basketball?! Unfortunately, there are other cautionary tales of elite athletes that do not pan out. Case in point, Matt Jones. At 6’6 237 lbs, Jones ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the combine. That was probably the highlight of his NFL career because a lack of polish at his position combined with enough funds for copious amounts of cocaine was Jones’ undoing.

    Evan Engram- Here is a guy who I absolutely love as a football player. Coming into the 2016 season, there were questions as to whether Engram was a WR or a TE. Engram worked at his craft and put on some mass to silence those questions. Evan Engram is a TE and a damn good one at that. He has soft hands and the ability to create separation from defenders. He has the ability to move all over the field and create mismatches.

    Perfect Match- One coach who is known for creating mismatches is Kyle Shanahan. Currently, the 49ers are completely devoid of playmakers. Their best TE is the oft-injured Vance McDonald and they have no real weapons at the WR position. Engram would immediately become the best weapon in the passing game for the 49ers.

    Best Case/Worst Case- Engram’s best case and worst case play on the same team. I think that with Engram’s RZ ability and versatility, he could grow into a healthier version of Jordan Reed. He could also become a Niles Paul. A talented guy who’s frame just isn’t quite big enough to hold the mass necessary to compete in the NFL.

    That concludes the Perfect Match Series, if you missed the first two editions here are the links:

    Part Two

    Part One

Podcasts

Episode 169: Overrated/underrated players Pt. 2

Monday, 10 April 2017 00:00
Adam Inman, George Banko, Andy Ferris and special guest Dominick Petrillo debate who's currently being overdrafted and underdrafted according to various Mock Draft sites. They tell who you should think about drafting and who
Read more...

Episode 168: Overrated/underrated players Pt. 1

Monday, 10 April 2017 00:00
Adam Inman, George Banko, Andy Ferris and special guest Dominick Petrillo debate who's currently being overdrafted and underdrafted according to various Mock Draft sites. They tell who you should think about drafting and who
Read more...

Episode 167: Free Agency Breakdown with Special Guest Rumford Johnny Part Two

Monday, 27 March 2017 00:00
The Fantasy Football Helpers and Rumford Johnny finish out the ten most intriguing teams as we round out free agency and look forward to the draft. Rummy joins Jaben for the second half of the podcast, be sure to listen to th
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Episode 166: Free Agency Breakdown with Special Guest Rumford Johnny

Monday, 27 March 2017 00:00
Rumford Johnny joins the Fantasy Football Helpers to break down 10 of the most intriguing teams after the moves in free agency and we take look ahead at the draft. We lead the show talking about the most active team in free a
Read more...

Episode 165: Latavius Murray's best situation

Monday, 27 February 2017 00:00
On this edition of the pod, Will Pendleton and George Banko discuss Latavius Murray's fantasy value going forward, if any rookie quarterbacks will be fantasy relevant in 2017 and why Christian McCaffrey is one of the most fas
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Episode 164: Perkins, Richard and other RBs on our radar

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 00:00
On this episode of the Helpers pod, Will Pendleton and George Banko discuss several backfields including the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants. Link to original photo.
Read more...

Waiver Wire

Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play streng
Read more...

Fantasy Film Projector: Joe Mixon

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability and route running (points per reception leagues),
Read more...

Fantasy Film Projector: Samaje Perine

Sunday, 02 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), p
Read more...

Fantasy Film Projector: Christian McCaffrey

Monday, 13 March 2017 00:00
Editor's note: This is the second installment of the Fantasy Film Projector series for 2017. The goal of the Fantasy Film Projector is to help you identify traits from college players that will translate to points for your fa
Read more...

Aaron Rodgers Will Raise This Player's Fantasy Value In 2017

Saturday, 04 March 2017 00:00
In 2015, the Packers were missing something in their offense. The glaringly obvious fact was that Aaron Rodgers no longer had Jordy Nelson due to a knee injury. In addition, the Packers were missing a tight end that could run
Read more...

Fantasy film projector: Jeremy McNichols

Thursday, 23 February 2017 00:00
On this edition of the Fantasy Film Projector, we discuss Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols and where his skill set fits into the NFL fantasy picture as a rookie in 2017. Background McNichols played 3 seasons at B
Read more...
Thursday, 27 August 2015 00:00

Episode 83: Sleeper picks and DFS advice

On Thursday's edition of the podcast, the Helpers talk about their favorite sleeper picks and also give out some daily fantasy advice regarding quarterbacks. Daily fantasy football is a blast to play, and if you want to join some contests, here are some links.

$100,000 free contest. No charge to you at all.

$10 Million tournament. $25 buy in.

$1 Million play action

Published in Podcasts
Friday, 20 February 2015 00:00

Episode 47: A few sleepers

On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss what a sleeper actually is (to them) and toss out a few names who they think are intriguing for next season. It's never too early.

The Helpers start off the podcast talking about the definition of a sleeper. You see the term used on almost every fantasy football website and it comes with a variety of meanings. Some people think a sleeper is any player that nobody is talking about who stands a chance at having a good season. Others think it's a young player who hasn't fully blossomed as a pro and is about to hit his stride. Others think it's a an often-injured player who has talent but hasn't fully performed at the level he's capable of.

But no matter which way you slice it, the term 'sleeper' really means any player who is under the radar in some way, whether it be because he isn't currently starting but may stand a chance to, was injured last season but is healthy now or is young and raw but is just starting to figure out how to be consistent at the NFL level. To us, a sleeper that will perform above and beyond expectations, with the primary tool used to define his   expectations being his ADP (average draft position) in fantasy drafts.

The Helpers start out by naming two of their favorite deep sleepers this offseason.

Jordan Matthews, WR (Philadelphia Eagles)

The Philadelphia Eagles are juggling a lot of potential offensive pieces right now. Jeremy Maclin, their prized wide receiver who just finished the best season of his career, will be expecting more money after his one-term deal expired. Maclin will want top receiver money and the Eagles may not want to give up that kind of dough especially with Matthews looking like he has No. 1 receiver potential and also the fact that there are other receivers out there that may not be asking for as much money. Torrey Smith out of Baltimore might be one of those examples.

Matthews finished a solid rookie campaign with 67 catches, 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. He benefited from backup quarterback Mark Sanchez taking over for the injured Nick Foles midway through 2014. More of an intermediate thrower than a deep ball quarterback, Sanchez targeted Matthews more and helped the rookie eclipse 100 yards receiving in three contests while under center.

Which brings us to the next big question for Philadelphia — the quarterback. Rumors keep circulating like a revolving door that coach Chip Kelly will do whatever it takes to land Oregon quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft. If that somehow does happen, expect Matthews' value to take a hit at least in the short term while Mariota adjusts to the NFL.

Richard Rodgers, TE (Green Bay Packers)

Another intriguing sleeper is Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers. Rodgers' rookie season was a quiet one, as he caught just 20 passes for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns. But despite his low numbers, Rodgers still has potential because he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers started to gel late in the season. Rodgers caught 5 of 5 targets for 40 in the season finale against Detroit. Two weeks later in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, he caught the biggest pass of the game in the form of a 13-yard touchdown that A. Rodgers ripped between two defenders. Those are the kind of the clutch plays that quarterbacks remember.

View Ronn's flickr page here.

Published in Podcasts
Monday, 19 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Isaiah Crowell

He entered 2014 as a sleeper, but quickly energized the Browns' running game and entered the realm of fantasy relevance as a talented back with considerable upside especially around the goal line. While there were plenty of somewhat high peaks accompanied by somewhat lower valleys, Cleveland Browns rookie running back Isaiah Crowell remained in the fantasy spotlight as a high quality flex option throughout 2014, and his 2015 value is something worth monitoring this offseason.

How he got to where he is now

As a 22-year-old rookie coming in to Cleveland, Crowell signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent and was immediately given a $10,000 signing bonus. Scouts were wary of his discipline issues while in college. For example, Crowell was arrested on a weapons charge just before his sophomore season at Georgia which led to his dismissal from the perennial Division I powerhouse and his eventual enrollment at Alabama State just a month later. He bounced back while at Alabama State though, rushing for 30 touchdowns in two seasons and despised 1,000 yards rushing during his senior year.

He was no doubt a talented college player, and he proved his game could translate into the NFL during his rookie year. In his first season, he averaged a very solid 4.1 yards per carry, which was higher than teammates Terrance West (3.9 YPC) and now former teammate Ben Tate (3.1 YPC).

But Crowell's lack of touches early on curbed his fantasy upside. While he managed 11 carries twice in the team's first four games, it was clear the Browns' coaching staff was committed to offseason acquisition Ben Tate, a guy we will talk about later in this article.

So because he didn't see the majority of the carries (that distinction would eventually belong to Terrance West who had 171 total on the season), Crowell ended up with only 607 rushing yards. He rushed just 148 total times in 2014, a little over nine carries per game. Between him, Tate and West, the Browns were among the most run happy teams in the NFL.

While his yardage numbers didn't set hair on fire, Crowell made his fantasy money around the goal line which was a place the Cleveland coaching staff trusted him the most. He finished with a team-high eight rushing touchdowns, twice as money as both West and Tate.

Offensive line hot start and late fizzle

With a front that included Pro Bowlers Alex Mack and Joe Thomas, the Browns were all the rage through the first four games of the season and it looked like Crowell could benefit from that. Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer sure did, as the Browns' offensive line allowed the fewest quarterback pressures through five games, giving Hoyer the kind of protection usually reserved for the great quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and most recently, Tony Romo.

The good protection Hoyer enjoyed paid dividends for his stats. His zero interceptions in the first three games of the season and tacked up a three touchdown, 297 yard performance against Tennessee in Week 4. It only took Tate until Week 2 to record his first 100 yard game against the Tennessee Titans. The Browns went 2-2 in those first four games, but never lost a game by more than a field goal. Overall, it looked like things were trending upward.

But then misfortune occurred. Pro Bowl center Mack broke his leg in the team's Week 6 victory over Pittsburgh, which ended his season. The loss was a huge blow to an offensive line that had just played its best game of the year in a 31-10 victory over Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, Crowell rushed for 77 yards on just 11 carries (7.0 YPC) and a touchdown in that game. Other than his 88 yard outing against Atlanta, it was Crowell's the highest YPC average performance of the season.

No sooner when Mack left did Crowell's numbers start to dip. They lost an ugly game against Jacksonville, where fill in center John Greco struggled in his first ever start at the position after shifting over from guard. Hoyer felt the difference too, as he was sacked three times after being virtually untouched through the first quarter of the season. He finished just 16-for-41 for 215 yards in that loss. The rushing game also suffered, as Crowell turned in his worst performance of the season up until that point, rushing for just 18 yards on seven carries (2.6 YPC).

The Browns quickly rebounded and rattled off three straight victories, but the schedule was a bit softer against bad defenses like Oakland and Tampa Bay. Plus, the running game wasn't a factor in the victories since the Browns averaged 1.8 yards per carry as a team in that stretch. With those numbers coming against a bad Oakland Raiders rush defense and a Gerald McCoyless Tampa Bay D, you would've liked to have seen better stats from Crowell in that stretch. No doubt the injury to Mack played a key role. That said, the Browns averaged 23 points per game through nine weeks, which is something to be respected.

Making them eat Crow

Crowell slowly won over the coaches trust as the season went along. By Week 9, he started to see a consistent uptick in carries and eventually became the team's starting running back. He averaged 12 carries per game over the last eight weeks of the season, but remained a boom or bust candidate due to his inability to break big plays which zapped his yardage potential.

His fantasy value also suffered from the committee style attack employed by coach Mike Pettine, which led to inconsistent carry totals as the Browns rode the hot hand between he and West. Sometimes West would end up with more carries even if Crowell was the starter going in, as was the case in Week 12 against the Falcons where Crowell rushed 12 times for 88 yards while West saw 15 carries for 48 yards. Despite Crowell's better numbers, the Browns were committed to running a committee style system which left production at the running back spot very erratic at times.

To top it off, he battled a hip injury throughout the later part of the season which constantly kept his starting status in doubt.

Taters gonna Tate

While the competition between two running backs is enough to pose a consistency problem from a fantasy standpoint, it was even more muddled at one time during the 2014 season. The Browns signed former Texans running back Ben Tate in the offseason in hopes of finding a feature back after former their once coveted Top 5 draft pick in Trent Richardson didn't pan out, but the result was more of the same.

Tate started out well enough, averaging 6.2 yards per carry in his first two games, but quickly fell back to earth after that. From Weeks 4-8, Tate rushed for just 90 yards over five games. It all came to a head after a noticeably poor showing against Houston in Week 8, where Tate couldn't find a way into the positive net yardage category and ended with a pathetic -9 yards on four carries. He was released shortly after.

So with Tate gone, that's 119 more carries available to split between West and Crowell, assuming they don't go out and grab a running back in a talented pool of rookies come draft time. So while we can't say for sure if Crowell will have a chance to see a significantly higher amount of carries in 2015, there will be more opportunities for carries next season now that he proved his worth as a rookie.

Departure of Shanahan

After Norv Turner left in 2013, the Browns brought in Kyle Shanahan from Washington. The change in style was immediately noticeable. Turner was a pass enthusiast and the Browns ended up leading the league in pass attempts that season with 681. The results were good for wide receiver Josh Gordon, who ended up winning the receiving title, but the Browns didn't exactly light the world on fire and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season.

Under his zone blocking run scheme, Shanahan recommitted the Browns to the ground game in 2014 and Cleveland ended up ranking sixth in rushing attempts with 477 total carries for the season. But the poor finish by the team and eventual 7-9 record led to Shanahan getting canned as well. So now the Browns are looking at their sixth offensive coordinator in six years. Former Rams, Bears and Lions coordinator Mike Martz interviewed with the team most recently, but there has been no official word on who will replace Shanahan just yet.

Uncertainty at quarterback

Brian Hoyer was the clear cut starter heading into 2014, but eventually regressed to the point where rookie Johnny Manziel started to see action. If Manziel's expected to take the reins in 2015, it could mean much more inconsistent play while he goes through growing pains as a young player. This could force the Browns into a bit of a rebuilding mode, which could also zap Crowell's value.

Final verdict

There is considerable sleeper potential for Crowell in 2015. The Browns still have a very talented offensive line and the absence of Ben Tate should provide more opportunities for carries as long as Cleveland doesn't try to add more RBs through the draft and/or free agency. But while it looks like he's weathered his past discipline problems that drained his value in college, there's always the possibility he messes up again. Also, inconsistencies at the quarterback position and some uncertainty at the offensive coordinator spot still leaves the possibility of fantasy upside for Crowell as a work in progress. But he's definitely an above average in the talent department.

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 15

Well, if you’re still alive then I say congratulations and I I’d also like to say…. I’m jealous!  My first round exit will be just another blip on the radar that nobody will remember.  Admittedly, my team happened to not be very good, but in addition to my team, the regular season’s points leader and consensus best team in my league by far was eliminated. Unfortunately for that team, they will also be another team in the 2014 season that nobody will recall long term.  This week those of you who are one game from the championship, are not only playing for a spot in the Super Bowl, or in many cases money….you’re playing for a permanent place in your league’s history books, a fond memory that you and your league members will have forever the bragging rights that come along with this glorious memory.  Let me show you what I mean. 

I’m a Giants fan in my early 30s and I’ve been a diehard football fan as long as I could remember.  Anything Giants related is entrenched in my mind, but playoff games between other teams before they reached the Super Bowl…not as much.  For example, everyone around my age or older remembers the Titans v. Rams Super Bowl  XXXIV where Kevin Dyson, instead of scoring the game tying TD, was tackled at the one yard line to end the game.  The game was now 15 years ago this January and even if you don’t remember the details of the game you know exactly what game I’m referring to and there is a clear picture of it in your mind.  However, do you remember how those teams got there?  A small percentage of you might, but I’m almost positive that the very large majority does not.  I had to look it up and I discovered that the Rams beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 11-6.  Weird score and I know I watched that game, but I can’t tell you anything about it off the top of my head.  The Titans dominated the Jaguars 33-14.  I can’t tell you anything about that game either.  In the long run nobody will remember or care that the Bucs made the NFC Title game that year.  I’m sure the Bucs don’t brag about losing that heart breaker.   Super Bowls will live in all of our hearts and minds forever.  Don’t be a blip on the radar!  Whether you’re the best team in your league on paper or whether you’re a team that got hot at the right time, take it home this week and you’ll be in fantasy football lure for the rest of your days. 

Your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot.  However, there are players at every position that I believe can help you accomplish your goal of winning a Super Bowl ring.

Without further ado, your week 15 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

·       Mark Sanchez v. Dallas.  Ok so maybe last week didn’t work out at home against Seattle,  but that was the Super Bowl Champs playing at their best in a huge game and this is Dallas, a team that's known as the biggest group of December choke artists in the last 15 years. Their defense has given up 7 TDs through the air in the last three weeks to Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Mark Sanchez himself.  The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in Dallas 33-10 on Thanksgiving day and there is no reason to think they won’t do the same on Sunday. 

Quick stat: According to Football Outsiders, teams losing by more than 20 points at home are just 17-36 (.321) in road rematches. The Eagles and Sanchez are looking better already.

Sanchez has shown consistent QB1 ability other than his misstep last week and despite only throwing for 96 yards, he still threw for 2 TDs.  He’s otherwise been consistently over 300 yards and has had multiple TDs in 5 of 6 starts. His matchup is ideal for the playoffs and has unlimited upside.  Take a tip from me.  Just because you were rejected by the girl/guy who doesn’t ever give it up (Seattle), does not mean you won’t score with the girl/guy who has the reputation for giving it up (Dallas)!  As far as Mark Sanchez goes, we know he’ll score on Sunday….as soon as he’s done throwing a few TDs in the football game.

I’d Start Mark Sanchez over: Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, JohnnyManziel

Bust QB:

·       Matthew Stafford v. Minnesota.  Oh how a couple of big performances against awful defenses make us forget.  In the last two weeks against the 23rd and 31st ranked teams (Chicago, Tampa Bay) against fantasy QBs, Stafford has averaged approximately 350 yards and 2.5 TDs per game. Stafford’s previous two games were against elite defenses in New England and Arizona, games in which he combined for 0 TD and 2 INT.  Minnesota, the 10th ranked fantasy defense against QBs and 6th in passing yards against, is up next on the schedule.  They’re not nearly as good as New England or Arizona defensively but they’re not nearly as bad as Chicago and Tampa Bay.  The Vikings can be run on easily, ranking 23rd in yards per game and I anticipate the Lions going that route. Some sites have Stafford ranked as high as #4 this week after his success the last two weeks but I’d expect him to finish with about 250 yards and 1-2 TDs, a borderline QB1. 

I’d Start the following players over Matthew Stafford: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan

Sleeper RB:

·       Fred Jackson v. Green Bay.  They say experience wins in the playoffs right?  Well why not take a shot with the oldest RB in the NFL.  This matchup has big upside for the Bills best receiving threat out of the backfield.  Jackson, a versatile threat looks as healthy as ever with 18 and 21 touches the last two weeks.  He has not hit pay dirt in those games but he did score big in PPR leagues with his 10 receptions last week against Denver.  Denver got off to a 24-3 lead and the Bills had to air it out leading to many dump offs to Jackson.  I see this game against Green Bay being extremely similar with a similar outcome for Jackson.  Start the old reliable Freddy Jackson as a RB2 in PPR leagues and as a flex in .5 PPR and standard leagues. 

I’d start Fred Jackson over: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Hill, Latavius Murray

Bust RB:

·       Chris Johnson at Tennessee. Last week I believed in the awful RB (Trent Richardson) having a big game in a revenge game and it backfired on me. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  Chris Johnson is a slightly better Trent Richardson. I don’t mean speed wise, Richardson runs in slow motion, but Johnson has zero power at this stage of his career and doesn’t provide much in terms of broken tackles.  It takes Moses parting the waters for him to hit the hole.  Johnson did have over 100 yards two games ago, in the run runrunrunrunrun game against the Dolphins, but has otherwise not topped 69 yards rushing yards this season when normal game plans were in place.  A decent performance could very well happen against Tennessee but I would not dare to put my fantasy prospects on a guy who has not scored a TD in the last nine games.  Experts are ranking him as a mid RB2 but I think he’s a at best a desperate flex option.  If you’re still alive at this stage of the game, you probably can do better.

I’d start the following players over Chris Johnson: Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill, Fred Jackson, Chris Ivory, Dan Herron

Sleeper WR:

·       Marqise Lee at Baltimore. For one week Baltimore, the league’s worst team against fantasy WRs, did not get dismantled in the passing game.  With the Jaguars coming to town, a blowout is likely in favor of Baltimore and a lot of throwing should be in store for the Jaguars come the 2nd half of the game.  A lot of throwing against the worst fantasy team against WRs? sounds like fantasy gold to me. Advantage Marqise Lee, the shiny new toy in Jacksonville. Lee has 16 targets over the last two weeks and is building some chemistry with number one pick Blake Bortles.  He’s been consistent with 52-75 yards over the last 3 weeks including a TD, but should be on the higher end of the spectrum against one of the league’s poorest defensive backfields.  Consider Lee as a 3rd WR.

I’d Start Marqise Lee over: Charles Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Malcolm Floyd, Harry Douglas

Bust WR:

·       Steve Smith Sr vs. Jacksonville.  Steve Smith is in the midst of a fine bounce back season in his first year in Baltimore.  He comes into this week 15 matchup against the Jaguars with two TDs in his last three games and with Torrey Smith battling an injury common sense says he’ll receive more targets and continue to put up big weeks. People see Jacksonville and think it’s a tasty matchup but much like I’ve warned the past few weeks, they’re actually a BAD matchup.  Since week 4 this team has been playing stellar defense against the pass.  Just this week they opposed Ryan Fitzpatrick who was coming off a 6 TD performance and held him to 135 yds and 0 TD!  IN addition, the previous two weeks they held Eli Manning to 1 TD and broke Andrew Luck’s streak of 300 yard performances while holding him to 1 TD.  The point of mentioning all these QBs is that the Ravens could very easily win this game handily, but it could be with a steady dose of Justin Forsett and some big plays against Blake Bortles.  The Ravens will not have to air it out too often, limiting Smith’s opportunities against and already very good pass defense.  All year Smith has been a boom or bust type of guy and I’m smelling bust for this week. 

I’d start the following players over Steve Smith: Marqise Lee, Julian Edelman, Vincent Jackson, Golden Tate, Malcolm Floyd

Sleeper TE:

·       Larry Donnell v. Washington. It’s been a rough go for Larry Donnell and those fantasy players who started him for the past three weeks but week 15’s matchup with Washington is the cure for the tight end blues.  The Redskins have gotten torched in back to back weeks by Coby Fleener and Jared Cook.  They rank 29th overall against the TE.  The Giants have shown that when they have an advantage in the passing game that they’ll keep picking on the matchup as evidenced by Donnell’s tendency to either put up a huge game or a tremendous dud.  Look for the Giants to look for Donnell on fade patterns and/or jump balls in the endzone.  In addition, look for them to throw a few deep seam passes to Donnell, a play that Washington has not shown the ability to cover in the last couple of weeks. 

I’d start Larry Donnell over: Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz

Bust TE:

·       Julius Thomas at San Diego.  If your other options are borderline options then you must start Julius Thomas, however I am concerned with his week 15 matchup.  I’m mostly concerned with his injury.  If he is not 100% then he is not the same player that can beat LBs and safeties 1 on 1 in the blink of an eye.  In addition, I am concerned with Denver’s proficiency in the run game.  In the beginning of the season, Denver was struggling to punch the ball into the endzone and Julius Thomas was their best option inside the 10 yardline.  Nowadays CJ Anderson is one of the hottest RBs in the game of football, and he does convert inside the 10.  The Broncos have no problem letting Anderson doing the dirty work while letting Julius Thomas get his legs back under him in his first game back from injury.  If that wasn’t bad enough, San Diego is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and held a healthy Julius Thomas to only 2 catches for 23 yards in week 8. Once again, start him if you have to but if you have any other high end options like Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett or this week even Larry Donnell, I would go ahead and bench him and save him for my Super Bowl week.   

I’d Start the Following Players over Julius Thomas: Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett, Larry Donnell, Antonio Gates

That’ll do it for week 15.It’s win or go home my friends.  Don’t be a blip on the radar!  Get it done this week and you’ll have bragging rights for a lifetime.  Good Luck!

View Allen Kotok's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

Week 14 sleepers and busts

Congratulations!  If you’re reading this then (in most leagues) you’re in the fantasy playoffs!  Now let’s begin that Super Bowl run. There’s a common saying “may the best team win”.  I couldn’t disagree more with this saying!  “May MY team win”, or for you readers, "may YOUR team win” is more like it……unless you’re one of my league competitors. And if I or you happen to be the best team, then this still qualifies.  But, in the playoffs the standings are irrelevant, and regular season accomplishments do not matter.  It’s three weeks of win or go home, and whether you're a top seed or lower seeded playoff team, be confident.  Those teams who are stacked really do have a chance to go home early.  It’s a small sample size, but in my 12 team league, the best team, the team who led the league in points during the regular season, has only gone on to win the Super Bowl twice out of 10 years.  So if you don’t think you’re the best, then maybe that’s a good thing!

Beating the best is the key to winning it all, and it is going to take some chutzpah.  If you’re going up against a team who is truly elite and is projected to beat you by 30+ points, it’s going to be tough but it's not over by a longshot.  If you know you’ll be up against a big score, then I suggest trying to hit a home run with a high upside start even if the player has a low floor.  If you’re in this position, now is not the time to stick with your boring, low upside players (i.e. Reggie Wayne, Owen Daniels, Frank Gore) just because you’ve been starting them all year.  It all comes down another saying, one I do like a lot, “no guts, no glory”.  I’ve witnessed teams starting players like Billy Volek (former Titans QB), Ryan Moats (former Eagles RB), or Tim Tebow make deep playoff runs, demolishing teams who are better on paper.  Hey, just look at what Ryan Fitzpatrick of all people was able to do last week.  At this time of the year, anything goes.

If you’re in the playoffs then most of your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot.  However, there are players at every position that I believe can be the first step towards your 2014 Super Bowl ring. The below sleepers and busts will be a good source for week 14’s home run hitters and those players to avoid in round 1 of the playoffs.

Without further ado, your week 14 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

·         Teddy Bridgewater vs. New York Jets.  If you’re playing matchups at QB the best thing you can do this week is embrace your Teddy bear and hope for the best…your Teddy bear of course being Teddy Bridgewater.  Bridgewater is getting more and more comfortable every week in Norv Turner’s offense and Turner has finally decided (fortunately for Bridgewater and the Vikings offense as a whole) that Cordarelle Patterson should not be on the field.  Explosive WR, Charles Johnson’s emergence and Kyle Rudolph’s return to the lineup have allowed Turner to run the offense he envisioned when he joined the staff and it’s led to Bridgewater acquiring value as a matchup play.  He has back to back 2 TD weeks and only 2 INTs in the last 5 weeks.  The Jets are as good of a matchup play as you can get.  Ranking 30th against the pass and having only picked off three passes this season, the Jets are a dream playoff matchup.  They're going through the motions to finish the season and Rex Ryan knows he’s not coming back.  There is no motivation on the part of Gang Green to pull off a surprising performance on the road. Expect Bridgewater to continue to mature, and if the game stays close and Teddy gets to throw for four quarters, we could be looking at a career day and Bridgewater’s first 3 TD game.

I’d Start Teddy Bridgewater over:  Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez

Bust QB:

·         Andy Dalton v. Pittsburgh.  I totally understand that Pittsburgh is a great matchup and that their CBs are burnable.  However, I don’t trust that Andy Dalton and his 13/13 TD/INT ratio are capable of taking advantage.  His pro-bowl LT, Andre Smith, is out for the season and Dalton is fresh off a 176 yard 1 TD/3 INT dud against an awful Tampa Bay secondary.  Dalton is as inconsistent as they come and he’s thrown 0 TDs in 4 games this season while also throwing 1 TD in another 4 games.  So 66.667% of the time he's thrown at most 1 passing TD. He's not exactly trending upward either with 2 TD/4INT in the last two weeks.  The Andy Dalton name has some recognition and can make you feel warm and fuzzy when looking at the matchup, but you can easily do better than him as a fantasy starter.   

I’d Start the following players over Andy Dalton:   Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater

Sleeper RB:

·         Trent Richardson at Cleveland.  To be clear I like Boom Herron this week but I like Richardson slightly more. Richardson gets to go back to the city where all the running in place started, Cleveland.  Seriously, it’s a revenge game for Trent and if he’ll ever put it into that next gear (first gear?), it will be this week.  He’s gone on the record saying he’ll jump into the dog pound after he scores, and the Colts if they can take an early lead will do what they can to get Richardson in the endzone.  Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano remains adamant Richardson is the starter on this team and will continue to receive touches. Herron’s explosiveness (and Richardson’s lack thereof) keeps him in the rotation but he’s had fumbling issues that keep Trent out there getting half the touches. Besides this being a revenge game, Cleveland sports a soft front 4, and while the defense focuses on containing Andrew Luck, they can be had in the running game. I don’t see this as a high ceiling start but I can see this as a flex play with about 70 total yards and at least one TD. 

I’d start Trent Richardson over:  Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Latavius Murray, Bishop Sankey

Bust RB:             

·         Frank Gore at Oakland.  Frank Gore is coming to the end of a fine career and could very well find himself in Canton one day.  However, this season may be the beginning of the end.  Gore has had 50 yards or fewer rushing in 5 out of the last 7 games and only 1 rushing TD in the last 10 games.  He only has 9 catches on the season so he’s no longer a factor in the receiving game.  The matchup against Oakland is ideal, but Gore having a big game would mean that San Francisco would have to be able to move the ball on offense.  The offensive line is vastly under-performing both in the pass game and run game.  Nothing the 49ers have done the past three weeks has shown that they have the ability to move the ball.  Last week was pathetic, but I’ll give them a pass against Seattle. But scoring only 16 points and 17 points against two of the worst defenses in the league (NY Giants, Washington), is inexcusable.  Oakland presents another supposed plus matchup, so Gore is ranked as a high RB2, but he’s clearly past his prime, and I’m starting to believe that the 49ers do not have a solution to the mess they’re experiencing on offense.

I’d start the following players over Frank Gore:  Tre Mason, Ryan Mathews, Lamar Miller, Gio Bernard, Trent Richardson

Sleeper WR:

·         Nate Washington v. New York Giants.  This is for you guys in deep 3/4 WR leagues, and you’ll thank me later.  Nate Washington is about to have a BIG week and a BIG fantasy playoffs so grab him.  Prior to this year Washington was a viable WR3 in all leagues.  He was 2013s #35 WR in .5 PPR leagues having put up over 900 yards receiving.  He has a 1000 yard season to his name and has 8 career 100 yard games including 3 just last season.  This season Justin Hunter, a promising WR with freakish speed and size, was supposed to be the next big thing, so the Titans, a team that is not really in win now mode, gave Hunter all the reps, snaps, and looks he can handle. Hunter suffered a lacerated spleen in Week 13 after getting hit by a freight train named Daniel Manning.  Hunter stayed in the game briefly but was ineffective.  After the injury, Nate Washington started getting peppered with targets, racking up 9 in total along with 5 receptions, 61 yards, and a score.  This was Washington’s 2nd TD in the past 3 weeks, a stretch where he’s had over 200 yards receiving.  The Titans top WR threat, Kendall Wright, suffered a cracked bone in his wrist this week and could miss week 14, leading to even more targets for the savvy veteran. The Giants come to Tennessee, still brutal and banged up at every position on defense.   Nate Washington will be able to outsmart the Giants porous defense and will have many targets, many catches, and at least one of his patented big plays. I recommend him as a #3 WR, the same place he ranked last year when he played a full complement of snaps.  His week 14-16 schedule is NYG, NYJ, @Jax.  GET HIM NOW.

I’d Start Nate Washington over:  Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Keenan Allen,  Marques Colston, Julian Edelman, Reuben Randle

Bust WR:

·         Keenan Allen at New England.  Next stop Revis Island.  The Chargers have so many other weapons with Gates, Floyd, Royal, and then Mathews in the running game, so there is no way Mike McCoy's gameplan will be to overload Keenan Allen with targets. Revis has left his Tampa Bay days behind him and returned to his lockdown form in 2014. Stud WRs Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson and TY Hilton have combined for 9 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD  the last 3 weeks against Revis! When ONE of those guys has a game like that nobody blinks an eye, but to lock down all three like that is something that cannot be ignored.  Keenan Allen isn't even close to the player those guys are, so I’d expect him to do less than the 3 catch, 40 yard average that they were held to in the previous three weeks.  Allen has been hot but he simply cannot be started this week in any/all formats.   

I’d start the following players over Keenan Allen:  Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings

Sleeper TE:

·         Travis Kelce at Arizona.  One team’s strength against another team’s weakness.  Arizona has elite CB talent but cannot seem to stop TEs ranking 27th on the season against the position.  Kansas City is still waiting to throw its first TD to a WR while their TE combination of Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano have combined for a whopping eight TDs. I like this matchup a lot for Kelce.  The Chiefs will do their best to run the ball with Jamaal Charles, but could very well struggle against the league’s 6th ranked team in rushing yards against.  They’ll have to go to the air and it only makes sense that they use their TEs to do so.  Not convinced?  Take a look at this motley crew who has hit paydirt against the Cardinals:  Jared Cook, Cooper Helfet, Daniel Fells, Levine Toilolo, and Julius Thomas. Outside of the elite TEs and Delanie Walker, I like Kelce the most this week at this position.

I’d start Travis Kelce over:  Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed

Bust TE:

·         Dwayne Allen at Cleveland.  Dwayne Allen is set to make his return to the lineup after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. Prior to his departure he was squarely in the mid TE 1 conversation.  However, I’d expect some rust in his first game back.  In addition, Coby Fleener has been fantasy’s #1 TE over the last three weeks.  Fleener had a very ugly drop on a sure thing long TD last week but has otherwise been picking up large chunks of yardage through the air and getting into the endzone.  Allen will clearly cut into Fleener’s looks but I don’t see the Colts forgetting about what Fleener has done the last few weeks.  Furthermore, the Browns are on tap, a team who allowed a huge game to Jimmy Graham in week 2 but has since not allowed any TE to score more than 11.8 fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues.  They’ve completely shut down many of the TE they’ve faced during this stretch and in 6 games have limited TEs to less than 6.4 points.  Allen is a risky play returning from injury and perhaps sharing with Fleener and the matchup at Cleveland lacks the upside needed for a fantasy playoff start. 

I’d Start the Following Players over Dwayne Allen:  Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell

That’ll do it for week 14. Do not leave any bullets in that holster.  There's no reason to play it safe now. Go big or go home.  May your run to the Super Bowl begin this Sunday.  Good Luck!

View Brook Ward's Flickr page here

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 13

I’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all the readers and families of readers out there.  Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday of the year.  The holiday encompasses my two favorite activities, eating (hopefully) really good food and watching football. It’s that simple.  There are no gifts I need to worry about buying, there’s no religious aspect to the holiday, there’s no costumes and people ringing my doorbell all day long, and as much as I love kids, there’s no Thanksgiving fictional character that I have to worry about blurting out isn’t real.  It’s really just “Hey, come over we’ll watch football, we’ll eat really good food and then we’ll watch a little more football.”  What a holiday!  I’m sure the attendees at the 1st Thanksgiving did not incorporate football into the plans for how the tradition would carry on, but I’d like to say thanks on this Thanksgiving to the pilgrim who invented this holiday, I thank you sir/madam.  Whoever you are/were, you started what became the perfect day, a national holiday solely based around food and football.  Ok I do admit the holiday gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my beautiful wife, the rest of my wonderful  family, and all my friends, and it even gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my freedom and about how incredible our soldiers are. So in summary, football, delicious food, more football, family time, and ignoring the bad momentarily while accentuating all the good things in life to be thankful for…..it’s the perfect holiday.

This is the last week of many regular seasons. Do or die, make or break, or in my case division title and first round bye, or monumental collapse.  Use these sleepers and busts to jockey for playoff position and to ensure that this will not be your last week. 

Happy Thanksgiving once again to you all.  I’m also thankful for each and every one of you out there giving this article a read.

Without further ado, your week 13 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

Matt Ryan v. Arizona

Is Arizona a very good defense?  Sure.  Is this matchup ideal for Matt Ryan?  Probably not.  But Ryan is at home against a team who we know for a fact will not allow the opposition to run the ball.  Ryan is ranked as the number 20 or so QB on most popular sites and if he did perform that poorly it would just mean the Falcons would get totally shut down completely at home. I refuse to believe this will happen.  In 4 home games (they’ve had 1 neutral game in London which I am not counting) Matt Ryan has thrown 9 TDs while only committing 3 turnovers.  Also, the Cardinals, while they are one of the elite NFL defenses, have allowed the 8th most passing yards per game this season.  He’s not a must start QB1 but Ryan historically performs significantly better at home than he does on the road, and even if the Falcons lose this game handily, he’ll still have a good amount of yards and a couple of TDs to show for it.

I’d Start Matt Ryan over: Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Zach Mettenberger,

Bust QB:

Cam Newton at Minnesota

Newton is coming off a bye week so maybe he’s been able to heal, but he clearly hasn’t been playing healthy.  He’s no longer the threat he used to be running the ball.  He’s also reverted back to his poor decision making ways with only 4 TD and 10 turnovers in his last 4 weeks. Minnesota is at home and is coming off an impressive showing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  They lost the game but they put pressure on ARod and limited the Pack to 24 points, not an easy feat.  The strength of the Vikings defense lies in their secondary where Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith lead the way, limiting teams to the 7th fewest passing yards per game.  They’re also a top 5 defense against opposing TEs, the position of most strength in the Panthers passing attack.   Newton is being ranked as a matchup QB option, in the 13-16 range but I see him as a borderline QB2 and maybe even a non-start in 2 QB leagues. 

I’d Start the following players over Cam Newton: Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Zach Mettenberger, Kyle Orton,

Sleeper RB:

Dan Herron v. Washington

Herron was a surprise starter last week, even to fellow Colts RB Trent Richardson.  There was a fairly even time share between he and Richardson, but Herron out touched him and out gained him and most importantly he racked up five receptions while playing on 3rd downs.  The Colts will miss Ahmad Bradshaw but it’s nice to see that they have a better talent than Richardson in Herron that they can use when killing clock.  Clock killing is exactly what the Colts will be doing this week at home against the hapless Redskins.  The Skins will be going into Indianapolis start Colt McCoy.  This seems like a total mismatch, one that will heavily favor the Colts.  Look for Herron to once again out touch Trent Richardson and approach 100 yards while getting in the endzone at least once.  Herron is a high RB2 this week. 

I’d start Dan Herron over: Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Giovanni Bernard, Fred Jackson

Bust RB:

Isaiah Crowell at Buffalo

Isaiah Crowell is a great talent that much is clear.  His future in this league is bright.  The Georgia alum was able to break out last week, ripping apart the Falcons in a homecoming game for him in Atlanta.  However, I do not think he’s matchup proof and is not a must start.  Buffalo is ranked 5th against fantasy RBs in .5PPR leagues.  At home they’ve limited their opponents and have only allowed the Patriots to put up more than 22 points. This game has cold weather low scoring game written all over it. The Bills defense is fast at LB on the edges and match up with Crowell’s skill set.  Despite Josh Gordon’s return to the lineup, the Browns will not have success moving up and down the field, and the opportunities for redzone touches and scores will not be there for the Crow. Crowell is a flex option this week but I would not trust him in leagues that start only 2 RBs.

I’d start the following players over Isaiah Crowell: Dan Herron, Tre Mason, Alfred Morris

Sleeper WR:

Charles Johnson v. Carolina 

Charles Johnson was a much hyped up rookie coming into the season but had not been a factor until week 10.  In the last two weeks his catches, targets, yards and playing time have all skyrocketed. This past week it was apparent that he was the Vikings number 1 WR, playing 67/69 snaps and receiving 11 targets.  He only turned those targets into 3 catches for 52 yards but he did score a TD and was open on several other occasions.  The last two weeks have resulted in 9 catches for 139 yards and a TD.  Carolina comes to town sporting the 26th ranked defense against fantasy WRs.  CB Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell have been major losses in the secondary from a once dominant defense. Perhaps an even bigger factor has been the suspension of All Pro defensive end Greg Hardy.  Hardy’s absence has all but eliminated the Panthers pass rush and QBs and WRs are having a field day against the new Panthers defense.  Look for Teddy Bridgewater to have one of his best days as a pro passer and for his new number 1 target, Charles Johnson, to be the major beneficiary.  Johnson can be started in many 3 WR leagues.

I’d Start Charles Johnson over: Kenny Stills, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Steve Smith, Julian Edelman

Bust WR:

Kenny Stills at Pittsburgh

Kenny Stills was expected to step up after Brandin Cooks went down with a broken thumb, and he did not disappoint.  Stills caught 8 balls for 98 yards in his new role, however this week he and his teammates at WR could be in for a down game.  The Saints, a disappointing offense, travels to Pittsburgh. The Steelers sustained early season injuries and after weeks of being decimated on defense return 3 key starters in Ike Taylor, Troy Polumalu and Ryan Shazier. The defense has been able to remain effective ranking 16th in passing yards against and 9th against fantasy WRs despite these key losses. Now with the defense back at full strength the Steelers should be able to once again become a viable defense, especially at home.  Other than Jimmy Graham there is no sure thing in this difficult road matchup.

I’d start the following players over Kenny Stills:  Charles Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Sammy Watkins

Sleeper TE:

Charles Clay at. New York Jets

Charles Clay was a top 10 TE last season and he has built fine chemistry in the redzone with Ryan Tannehill.  This season he hasn’t had as much success playing in a new offense and dealing with injuries, but he’s shown to be able to produce in the right matchups.  Coming off a groin injury, he returns just in time for the 3rd worst team against TEs the New York Jets.  The Jets have allowed a mind boggling 12 TDs to TEs and this past week allowed one to Bills TE Scott Chandler.  Outside of my top 6 TEs this week (Graham, Gronk, Julius Thomas, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker) it has not been easy to find consistent TE play so it’s important to play the matchups.  I’d start Clay over anyone who isn’t those 6 guys in this game. 

I’d start Charles Clay over: Antonio Gates, Coby Fleener, Larry Donnell, Travis Kelce

Bust TE:

Antonio Gates at Baltimore 

Antonio Gates was the reason why many fantasy teams got off to a great start with his surge of TDs in the first half of the season.  Recently he’s been the reason why fantasy teams may be going through an epic collapse to end the season.  Gates has combined for only 74 yards the last three weeks.  He’s only had 10 targets in that stretch and he hasn’t had more than 61 receiving yards in a game since week 2.   He’s TD dependent and is on the road against a defense in Baltimore that has allowed slightly over 10 points per game in five home games.  TD opportunities may not be available against this stingy defense.  I’d play the matchups and look elsewhere at TE this week.

I’d start the following players over Antonio Gates: Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Coby Fleener, Charles Clay, Tim Wright

That’ll be it for this week.  Happy Thanksgiving weekend.  Good luck and see you in the playoffs!

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 12

We’re past the bye week storm and fantasy skies are clear. There will be no more talk of storms and if you’re still here reading along then congratulations my friend, you’ve surviving the fantasy-life threatening catastrophe that has been the last three weeks. With only a mini bye week (Pittsburgh/Carolina) owners should be at or near full strength this week and throughout the rest of the season. There are still owners of Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen that could be left scrambling but after this week we’re all officially done with these bye week inconveniences.

We’ve now reached that point in the season that we will all remember quite well, and that point we will use to define our season as a success or failure. For some reason, the memory of fantasy owners improves ten-fold at about this time of the year.  We all have our stories about how we got to this point but we sum it up by saying something like “well, earlier this season my team was great led by those couple of big games that (fill in QB/RB/WR/TE) had but then (QB/RB/WR/TE) struggled and I find myself here in week 12 fighting for my playoff life”.  For those of us still alive, weeks 1-11 tend to be muddled into one group of games and performances.  Then week 12 gets here and the part of the season that we will remember vividly begins and our memories become very specific: “I remember it like it was yesterday.  Ryan Mathews was my hero in weeks 14-16 when he plowed through the Giants, Broncos and Raiders racking up 382 yards and a 3 TDs, one in each game.  His TDs were from 1, 9, and 23 yards out…ahhhhh the memories.”  This is not my memory.  I will admit I looked this up, but someone out there does have this clear and fond memory of Ryan Mathews 2013 fantasy playoff performance.  The team playing against these performances will remember these things just as vividly.  Which brings me to one of my many clear and precise memories….in Week 14 2008 I played against Santana Moss vs. Baltimore on Monday Night Football.  Right before halftime on 3rd and 15 from their own 5 yard line, the Redskins’ Jason Campbell threw a WR screen to Moss who broke a tackle and ran up the sideline for 25 yards. From that moment on, I led by .74 points all the way up until the Redskins’ last offensive play of their last drive…a meaningless Santana Moss 4 yard catch…I lost my playoff matchup by .16. Since then I’ve had hypnotists and psychiatrists do their best to repress this memory but it isn’t going anywhere. But now I don’t want them to make me forget. That loss is a part of me.  It motivates me every year and the memories that this time of the year brings, both good and bad is what fantasy football is all about.

Although I’ve listed two examples of playoff heroics, the memories begin with how we made the playoffs or how we were eliminated.  For the teams still battling for playoff position, it’s time for you to determine what your first real fantasy football memory of 2014 will be, and you should use the following sleepers and busts advice for Week 12 to help you succeed in creating happy memories. 

Without further ado, your week 12 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

 Sleeper QB:

·         Eli Manning vs. Dallas.  Eli Manning is coming off one of the worst games of his life, a game in which he threw 5 INTs, so obviously those in the fantasy world will be down on him.  The 49ers returned Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aldon Smith to the lineup last week and their pass rush was predictably much improved.  The Giants have huge holes on the offensive line and a team with that kind of pass rush is going to give Eli and the Giants major problems.  Dallas comes into New York off a London vacation where they also got to play a football game against the Jaguars.  The Cowboys only have 16 sacks on the season and only have one player with more than 2 sacks.  They came into the Jaguars game on a two-game slide and they took a step back defensively with the loss of LB Justin Durant and DT Tyrone Crawford.  In these two games, they allowed Colt McCoy to throw for nearly 300 yards and they allowed a 249 yard, 3 TD game to Carson Palmer.  The Giants should be able to protect Manning enough to free Odell Beckham, Reuben Randle and Larry Donnell who all match up well with the Cowboys who will attempt to cover them (Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Rolondo McClain/Barry Church).  In Eli’s last three matchups against the Cowboys, he’s had multiple TDs in each game, a total of 9 TDs vs. 4 INTs. Prior to last week Manning had been a low end QB1. In fantasy football sometimes, we have to let a week like last week against the 49ers go, and not let it sway our opinions too much.  I see a shootout in a matchup where neither team will be playing effective defense.         

I’d Start Eli Manning over:  Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Josh McCown, Matthew Stafford

Bust QB:

·         Josh McCown at Chicago.  Former Bears QB Josh McCown comes into week 12 having thrown 4 TD in his last two games. The experts are ready to anoint him as a QB1 in his return to Chicago.  I think it’s a nice story, but anyone giving McCown QB1 status on the road is just over reacting.  McCown comes off back to back games against two of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Falcons and Redskins.  The Bears are another of the league’s worst, ranking 31st against fantasy QBs, but much of that ranking is due to the 11 TD assault put on them by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in weeks 8 and 10.  Head Coach, Mark Trestman, and Bears defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, know what McCown has in his arsenal and should be able to develop a game plan to limit breakout WR Mike Evans and veteran WR Vincent Jackson. If the coaches’ familiarity with McCown were the only issue I wouldn’t list him here. The forecast in Chicago calls for 100% chance of steady rain with winds up to 20 MPH.  A combination of the Bears’ coaching staff and mother nature will ensure that McCown’s return to Chicago will come in a sloppy game, not a shootout between two poor defenses.  Keep him benched.   

I’d Start the following players over Josh McCown:   Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson

Sleeper RB:

·         Bishop Sankey at Philadelphia. Until last week most of what we’ve heard from Ken Whisenhunt about Bishop Sankey is that his footwork hasn’t been right. Sankey owners were left frustrated by this for weeks as he was losing touches to Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster. Finally, this week we heard Whisenhunt say something normal and complementary about his 1st round running back. His exact words were,  "I thought he was physical, I thought he was decisive, he was better with his reads…Those are things where you’ve seen improvement." Sankey only had 45 total yards, but he did score a TD and more importantly his coach came away impressed. Zach Mettenberger has provided a spark to this offense and they should be able to move the ball against an opportunistic yet poor Eagles defense. Sankey is the featured back and the Eagles have allowed RBs to hit pay dirt at least once in four straight weeks (Ellington, Foster, Stewart, Lacy).  It's no coincidence that this stretch coincides with the season ending injury to starting LB DeMeco Ryans. Sankey has finally caught the coach’s eye, he’ll get redzone opportunities and he’ll continue to dominate snaps and touches in the backfield. He’s being listed as a mid RB3 but in this matchup I see him as a mid-low RB2 or at worst a flex.   

I’d start Bishop Sankey over:  Joique Bell, Chris Ivory, Tre Mason, Shane Vereen, Lamar Miller

Bust RB:             

·         Alfred Morris at San Francisco.  This may be an obvious choice but Alfred Morris is still being listed being listed in the RB2 realm, too high for my liking this week. The 49ers are at home and on the season are the second best team against fantasy RBs. The Redskins, coming off a home game against TB where they couldn’t move the ball, will have a hard time sustaining drives on the road in San Francisco. If Colin Kaepernick doesn’t screw it up, the 49ers should be able to jump out to a lead early and we’ll be seeing a lot of Roy Helu in the backfield (Helu is a nice flex option this week). In addition, we’re coming off a week where RG3 threw his team under the bus while talking to the media.  His act has grown tired to his coaches and I wouldn’t be shocked to see an uninspired Redskins team who won’t fully have the back of their over-rated outspoken QB, leading to a disastrous overall offensive performance from the Skins.  It’s going to be a tough go this week and from here on out for Alfred Morris. 

I’d start the following players over Alfred Morris:  Tre Mason, Isaiah Crowell, Bishop Sankey, Ryan Mathews

Sleeper WR:

·         Marques Colston v. Baltimore.  Brandin Cooks is lost for the season with a broken thumb.  The immediate reaction is to assume that his targets will go to Kenny Stills, the young big play WR oozing with upside. We talked a little bit about the Cooks injury and Kenny Stills on our podcast earlier this week.  However, while I do see Stills getting more targets, I think the biggest beneficiary could be the old reliable Marques Colston.  Cooks did provide some big plays on deep balls, but he had been mostly running a lot of short to intermediate routes, routes that Colston had run in the past.  Colston (34 receptions) had moved down to 3A or 3B in the pecking order behind Jimmy Graham and Cooks, and was even with Stills (31 receptions). It’s weird to say, but the Saints are having a tough year offensively and they may want to simplify things by going with what they know has worked in the past, short and intermediate routes to Colston. This week they’ll host a Baltimore team starting a secondary that has played exactly one game together.  They played just fine at home against Zach Mettenberger and the Titans, but playing in the Superdome against Drew Brees with his back against the wall is a totally different story. Expect the Saints to have a bounce back game and be led by Drew Brees’s main men for the last few years, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston.  I see Colston as a solid WR3 moving forward in PPR leagues.      

I’d Start Marques Colston over:  Malcolm Floyd, John Brown, Eric Decker, Jarvis Landry, Cecil Shorts

Bust WR:

·         Golden Tate at New England.  Golden Tate enjoyed his first game with Megatron in the lineup, but last week in Arizona we witnessed what can happen when a struggling offense (yes Detroit has been struggling despite winning games) goes on the road against a top defense.  Tate only received two targets in the midst of Matthew Stafford’s putrid day.  This week the Lions once again go on the road to face a pass defense that just shut down Andrew Luck. Word is that Tate will take a trip to Revis island, while Calvin Johnson gets double teamed by Brandon Browner and a safety.  New England is the best team in the NFL and they sport the 2nd best ranking against opposing WRs in .5 PPR leagues. Matthew Stafford will have trouble getting anything going and if he does, it will be to his main man Calvin. Tate’s trip to his island destination will not be enjoyable.   I’d remove him from all 2 WR lineups and most 3 WR lineups.

I’d start the following players over Golden Tate:  Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne

Sleeper TE:

·         Marcedes Lewis at Indianapolis.  Many fantasy players forget that Marcedes Lewis began the season in kind of a big way with 8 catches, 106 yards, and a TD in his first two weeks.  Lewis may be rusty in his first week back but he couldn’t be returning for a much better matchup.  Indianapolis ranks 29th against opposing TEs in .5 PPR leagues.  The Colts should be leading throughout the game which could result in a high volume of throws from Blake Bortles and ample opportunities for Lewis to catch passes. Lewis is also returning at the same time that news was revealed that possession WR, Allen Robinson, would not be returning this season.  Robinson was used a security blanket and racked up targets and receptions.  Lewis should be able to take over the security blanket role.  Look for Lewis to receive 7+ targets and get 5+ receptions.  He's a fine streaming TE for Greg Olsen owners or teams who are just looking to play the matchups.    

I’d start Marcedes Lewis over:  Owen Daniels, Kyle Rudolph, Eric Ebron, Vernon Davis, Jacob Tamme

Bust TE:

·         Jacob Tamme/Julius Thomas vs. Miami.  Julius Thomas has been reported as a game time decision but John Fox admitted that he wasn’t able to do much on the practice field.  If Thomas is out, many fantasy owners will salivate at the thought of being able to pick up Jacob Tamme, the man who would be the Broncos starting TE.  I’m warning you against doing so.  Miami is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and has been especially stingy since their week 5 bye.  Since then they have shut down each and every TE they have faced including every week fantasy starters, Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates.   I’d choose other streaming TEs if Tamme is on your radar. 

 If Julius Thomas does play, you have to start him, but I’d expect him to play a limited role and to struggle like we’ve seen him do a few times earlier this season in between monster performances.  I won’t list any replacements for him since he’ll need to be in your lineup.

I’d start the following players over Jacob Tamme:  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Antonio Gates, Marcedes Lewis, Niles Paul

That’ll do it for week 12.  I hope this week is the beginning of a memory that will last a lifetime and not one that will haunt you for years to come.  Good Luck!   

Puzzled on who to start for you team this week? Check out our weekly rankings here.

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 08 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 10

Are you all still with me?  Is everyone accounted for? Have you escaped any and all fantasy-life altering damage from the week 9 storm otherwise known as a six team bye week?  We’re one week through a three week long monsoon of byes and I’d be lying if I said that the forecast is any better this week. There’s 100% chance of chaos with another SIX teams on byes. Owners of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Ahmad Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen, Phillip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Branden Oliver, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson and Jerick McKinnon are going to be looting the waiver wire during these trying times. If you only have one critical player on a bye this week, you’re probably better off than anyone else in your league. And then you have a team like mine, a first place team, who has five regular starters on byes and now needs to start Jonathan Stewart, Jermaine Gresham, Miles Austin, and my own QB against my starting defense (Kaepernick and Saints). To be clear, I do not recommend any of these players as starts.  It’s just that desperate. The eye of the storm is directly on me and many others out there in the fantasy world this week. 

Last week if you listened to me, I kept you safe, warm and dry. I’ll do my best to once again be your umbrella and shelter from the storm with this week’s edition of Sleepers and Busts.   

Without further ado, your week 10 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

·         Michael Vick vs. Pittsburgh. Last week in Kansas City, Vick made his first start for the Jets in a difficult matchup in Kansas City. I expected to see a turnover prone, shaky Vick, but despite the Jets being blown out, Vick was actually quite impressive. Specifically, I was impressed that the Jets made it a point to get Percy Harvin very involved (11 rec. 129 yds) in the offense and we saw a Vick to Decker redzone TD. Vick made smart decisions throughout the game and did not turn the ball over. This week the Jets are back home for Pittsburgh, the hottest offensive team in football and defensively the 20th ranked team against the pass. The Steelers come into week 10 significantly banged up on defense. Safety, Troy Polumalu, and first round pick, LB Ryan Shazier, are out this week, while key starters Ike Taylor and Jarvis Jones have been out for several weeks.  The Steelers, due to their injuries, could be susceptible to both the run and pass this week.  Combine that with the Steelers being the hottest team on offense and we have the potential for a shootout.  If Michael Vick is going to continue to play smart football, the upside his legs and rushing stats bring to the table make Vick a borderline QB1 with upside this week.  Owners of Luck, Brady and Rivers, should not sleep on Vick’s potential this week.

I’d Start Michael Vick over:  Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning

Bust QB:

·         Tony Romo vs. Jacksonville in London.  Tony Romo is playing football with broken bones in his back.  The Cowboys are desperate to stay afloat in the NFC East so they’re sending their QB to London before their bye week.  The Cowboys should be able to win this game fairly easily, manhandling Jacksonville on offense in the run game, and forcing Blake Bortles into a few mistakes on defense.  The Cowboys game plan will be one that makes things easy on Romo unless for some reason the game is close in the second half.  Jacksonville, a much maligned defense has actually been quite good against QBs the last 5 weeks holding Big Ben, Charlie Whitehurst, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Tannehill and Andy Dalton to 4 combined TDs during that span. This is not a great matchup for Romo even at 100% and with broken bones in his back, the Cowboys will look to win ugly and do what they can to avoid aggravating Romo’s injury before their week 11 bye. 

I’d Start the following players over Tony Romo:   Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick

 

Sleeper RB:

·         Montee Ball at Oakland.  Montee Ball owners have been waiting all season to reap the benefits of the first or second round pick they wasted spent. This week Ball will be back on the field for the first time since injuring his groin in week 6.  The Broncos should literally be able to do whatever they want against an Oakland Raiders team who ranks 27th in rushing yards against.  Ronnie Hillman has done an incredible job and will be the starter for now, but Ball will certainly get his share of carries in this blowout.  Furthermore, if there are goal line carries, they could be his.  Denver will want to get Ball some confidence heading into the stretch run to create a dynamic 1-2 punch at the RB position.  I recommend Ball as a low end RB2/Flex in a difficult bye week.     

I’d start Montee Ball  over:  Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Tre Mason, Jonathan Stewart

 

Bust RB:             

·         Steven Jackson at Tampa Bay.  Steven Jackson is coming off his best rushing performance of the season, 60 yards and a TD.  While most would sign up for those stats from an RB2 this week, this seems to be Steven Jackson’s ceiling. On the season, he’s only playing 40% of snaps while sharing the backfield with Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman. His name and history in this league has led other sites to rank him in the top 20 RBs for this week.  I am not even close to that optimistic.  Tampa Bay is an atrocious defense, but they’re only really bad against the pass. Other than a RB assault by the Saints in week 5, this defense has held its own against RBs.  Gerald McCoy and LaVonte David are two pro bowlers and very effective run stoppers.  Jackson did have 54 yards rushing and a TD in the week 3 matchup between these teams, but that was when Gerald McCoy was sidelined with an injury. Atlanta will attack the Bucs through the air and will use their scat backs (Rodgers/Smith/Freeman) on the outside more than they’ll try to bulldoze Gerald McCoy up the middle with Jackson.    

I’d start the following players over Steven Jackson:  Bobby Rainey, Joique Bell, Montee Ball, Chris Ivory

 

Sleeper WR:

·         Kendall Wright at Baltimore.  Kendall Wright owners rejoice!  Zach Mettenberger could be just what the doctor ordered for the Tennessee Titans wide receiving core. He’s coming off a 299 yard 2 TDs performance against a quality Houston defense. He’s had two weeks to prepare for a Ravens secondary that is in turmoil.  The Ravens have been so disgusted about what they’ve seen in the secondary the last two weeks that they’ve made drastic mid-season changes.  Lockdown corner Jimmy Smith was pronounced out for the season and still they cut two CBs (Dominique Franks and Cheykie Brown), one of which was a starter. They picked up CB Danny Gorrer who was released by the Lions on Monday.  The Ravens one mainstay is Lardarius Webb and he’s been struggling in his new role as the top CB.  Look for the Titans WRs led by Kendall Wright to take advantage of a struggling unit who has never played together.

I’d Start Kendall Wright over:  Mike Wallace, Marques Colston, Allen Robinson, Reuben Randle

 

Bust WR:

·         Michael Crabtree at New Orleans. I’m still seeing Michael Crabtree listed as a WR2/3 this week so I just can’t help myself.  I’m going back to back weeks with Crabtree listed here and I might just keep him here permanently until the “experts” figure out that he’s just not good at football right now.  Crabtree is 68th in the NFL in receiving yards below the likes of Jericho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton, and Kenny Stills. He’s now gone 5 straight games of under 50 yards and he’s on pace for 724 yards this season.  Anquan Boldin, another SF receiver who is on pace for 90 catches and 1080 yards,  is a better player and is more consistent, yet he is constantly ranked below Crabtree every week.  I’m not sure if it really matters but this week he’ll be on the road in New Orleans and he’ll draw a quality CB in Keenan Lewis for much of the game.  Crabtree for me equals too much hype, too many drops, too many poor routes and too few fantasy points to have in lineups in any format. 

·         I’d start the following players over Michael Crabtree:  Vincent Jackson, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, John Brown

 

Sleeper TE:

·         Jared Cook at Arizona.  Jared Cook is ice cold, but out of the streaming TEs I think he has the most upside this week. Arizona is historically bad against TEs and this year is no different as they rank 23rd against them in .5 PPR leagues. In addition, Cook has a history worth mentioning against Arizona. In week 1 of 2013, Jared Cook caught 7 passes for 141 yards and 2 TD against these very Cardinals. If I recall he had a 3rd TD robbed from him at the 1 yard-line when a defender poked the ball out of his hands and through the endzone for a touchback. This performance led many to believe he’d finally break out the way he was rumored to for years. Well he did not become one of the great TEs, but he’s shown that given the right matchup, he can have games of 60+ yards. That’s all you can ask for with a bye week fill-in at TE. In his other game against Arizona last year he had 49 yards, which is not great but not a disaster.  Maybe Cook gets sentimental and breakout out once again against Arizona.  He’s worth a shot in this matchup if you’re thinking about other guys who are ranked TE2 this week.

I’d start Jared Cook over:  Zach Ertz, Vernon Davis, Charles Clay, Delanie Walker, Scott Chandler

Bust TE:

·         Greg Olsen at Philadelphia.  I have Olsen as my 9th ranked TE so in many cases you are still starting him, however I do think he is in for a down week.  The Eagles are the NFL’s #1 ranked team against TEs.  They haven’t allowed double digit fantasy points to a TE since week 3 in .5 PPR leagues, and the high point total against them is only 11.5 points.  Olsen is in a mini 2 game slump having caught only 4 balls for 46 yards in the last two weeks.  Seattle and New Orleans keyed on him and made Cam Newton beat them in other ways.  Other teams may see Carolina struggling and follow suit.  My ranking of him suggests that I do think he can have a decent week, something like 6 catches for 70 yards. However, if you have two standout TEs on your roster you may want to opt for the other guy this week since the matchup against the Eagles limits Olsen’s upside.   

I’d start the following players over Greg Olsen:  Martellus Bennett, Larry Donnell, Travis Kelce, Mychal Rivera

That’ll do it for week 10.  Stay warm, stay dry.  After this week we’ll see a break in the clouds.

View Football Schedules Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

An all-out Eifert will be required to ensure your team is among the best it can possibly be. As the fantasy playoffs near, it's always good to have depth at each position on your roster so you can plan for injuries and give yourself a shot at a more favorable matchup.

When it comes to the tight end position, quality performances on a repeat basis can be hard to come by at times. So far this fantasy season, only about seven tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, Dwayne Allen and Jimmy Graham) have more than 60 fantasy points. The first five of those TEs could be considered in the top tier this year, while the next two make up the 'slightly below No. 1 tier'. After those seven, there's a bit of a drop off with Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell, Heath Miller, Owen Daniels and Zach Ertz making up the 'feast or famine' No.2 tier.

So if you don't have one of those seven (and there's about a 50 percent chance you don't if you're in a 12 or 14 team league), you might want to take a look at a few other options especially as the playoffs near. If you have one of the lower tier tight ends listed above, giving another guy a shot at being your No. 1 tight end could make a difference when it matters most.

The case for Eifert

One of the players most owners will be looking at in the coming weeks is Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, a second-year man out of Notre Dame who's due to return from I.R. by Week 11 after suffering an elbow injury in Week 1. He caught all three of his targets for 37 yards before going down in that one game.

Possessing soft hands, Eifert stands an impressive 6'6, 250 lbs and his speed is something of a mystery still. While he was initially dubbed a Jason Witten clone coming out, Eifert impressed scouts with his speed after he ran a 4.6 40, which was the fourth fastest time among all tight ends. You factor that in with his height and this is somebody who has all the tools to be great.

the Bengals are also invested in him since they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft. Plus, on a team riddled with injuries to its receiving core, Eifert steps into a favorable situation where his services could be relied upon much more than last year.

As a rookie in 2013, Eifert recorded at least one catch in 15 games and finished with 39 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. While his two touchdowns were a bit underwhelming and he never recorded a 100-yard game, Eifert displayed a knack for remaining involved in an offense that was crowded with the likes of fellow tight end Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Giovani Bernard and of course, A.J. Green.

When you factor in the fact that Bernard was one of the most targeted running backs in the league last season, it made it that much more difficult for Eifert to find his spot within the offense. It's no surprise he wasn't making a huge impact. Eifert finished the 2013 season with 59 targets, which ranked sixth behind Gresham, Sanu, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Bernard.

Keep in mind, young receivers often take a little longer to become difference makers in the first few years of their career. Guys like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez didn't begin to put up fantasy worthy numbers until their second and third years. Not saying Eifert will put up those numbers eventually, it's just worth noting that receiving tight ends don't come out and crush it immediately.

A brighter picture for him in 2014

Eifert won't have to compete with so many other receivers for targets like he did last season. With Jones out for the year, there's 80 targets up for grabs right there. Bernard isn't seeing the kind of targets he did last year as the Bengals have become more of a run team under new coach Hue Jackson.

Also, There's less of a chance Gresham interferes with Eifert's production like last season, as the fifth-year tight end hasn't been much of a factor with just 28 catches for 211 yards and zero touchdowns in 2014. There were even talks of him possibly getting traded which would've given Eifert's value an even bigger boost, but now that the trade deadline has passed it's unlikely that will happen.

Eifert is currently on schedule to return for Cincy's Week 11 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, a team that ranks 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game (289). The next three games are good matchups as well with Houston (28th against the pass), Tampa Bay (30th against the pass) and Pittsburgh (19th against the pass).

What you should do about it

Since he's not due back until a few more weeks, it'd be wise to grab Eifert either now or next week before he becomes more of a wanted man. It'd be best to acquire him without wasting a waiver pickup unless your tight end spot is your greatest weakness. Still, there's not a lot of receiving tight ends with more upside than Eifert at the moment. He's well worth the acquisition especially if your team appears destined for the playoffs and needs a few more quality depth guys to ensure you don't get snake bitten by an unlucky injury.

View Navin Rajagopalan's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 18 October 2014 00:00

Week 7 bullet points for RBs

Start of the week

DeMarco Murray vs. New York Giants — #1 in weekly rankings

It's impossible to rank Murray behind anyone else at this point. If his owners aren't already fist pumping for all his production so far this season, his matchup for Week 7 is also decent. The Giants defense allowed 203 rushing yards last week from the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has struggled in the run game due to a battered offensive line.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, have one of the best offensive lines in the league and Murray has yet to run for less than 100 yards in a game this season. Dallas also has the added benefit of playing at home, where a rocking crowd that finally has a reason to cheer a winning team will no doubt add another advantage.

It's not to say the Giants can't surprise and keep Murray in check. They're one of the most resilient teams in football as evidenced by their three straight wins following an 0-2 start. Still, they haven't fared too well against the run this season. They've allowed 116 rushing yards per game on average (17th in the NFL) and surrendered seven rushing touchdowns which is tied for third worst in the league.

If Murray somehow doesn't have a good game, it will be more because they opt to use their backups in a blowout or they simply scale his carries back and rely on Romo a bit more. That's unlikely to happen though based on how well the formula has worked so far for Dallas. Also, the Cowboys (5-1) will want to keep the pedal to the medal to gain some distance from another 5-1 team in Philadelphia while the Eagles rest on their bye week. Murray is as much of a lock as any RB in the league this week.

Start him

Andre Ellington @ Oakland — #12 in weekly rankings

Ellington has yet to the cross the 100-yard plateau this season, with the closest coming in Week 2 against the New York Giants where he rushed for 91 yards. But this week is his best chance to do just that. The Raiders are coming off a game where they allowed more than 100 yards to Chargers RB Branden Oliver.

Oakland has been dismal against the run. They'r allowing 149 rushing yards per game this season, which is second worst only to Green Bay. Carson Palmer is expected to play, which should help Ellington's numbers in the receiving game as he recorded a season-high six catches last week against Washington. Ellington is one of the more versatile running backs in fantasy and should give owners a decent outing in Week 7.

Fred Jackson vs. Minnesota — #18 in weekly rankings

Old Mr. reliable. Running backs in the NFL often age like milk, but Jackson is aging like wine. He always finds a way to make fantasy owners who start him happy. If he doesn't rush for a lot of yards, he scores a touchdown. If he doesn't score a touchdown, he gets you some good PPR numbers and 30-40 rushing yards. He never explodes for big games, but he always hovers around the 5-8 fantasy point mark, which is all you need out of a flex guy. Jackson's 30 total targets is second most in the NFL among running backs, trailing only Matt Forte.

While Jackson has more upside than Spiller, there's some still points of concern. The Bills offensive line is just not good, as evidenced by their recent struggles in the run game against both Detroit and New England. If you watched those games, you noticed running backs like C.J. Spiller getting surrounded by defenders before they even have a chance to get up the field. The difference is, Spiller runs east and west while Jackson bursts through for all the yards he can get. Spiller could have more upside if the line was better since he's more a straight line speed guy.

But that's why Jackson is the better fantasy option — he's more versatile. The Bills like to split him out wide from time to time and use him in the screen game, which gives him added value in the receiving game. Laterally, he can make guys miss in a way similar to Ahmad Bradshaw in Indianapolis (who also suffers from a bad offensive line). He's better in pass protection as well. Overall, Jackson's just a better player than Spiller for this scheme.

Jackson's best chance for a big week may very well be against Minnesota. The Vikings' defense ranks 17th against the run, having allowed 117 yards per game through six weeks. They've also allowed six rushing touchdowns which is tied for 24th in the league. Quarterback Kyle Orton, while not playing his best football as of now, still has more upside than E.J. Manuel and should target Jackson plenty in the backfield. Expect Jackson to rush for anywhere between 60-70 yards and add 6-10 catches for 50-70 yards. A goal line touchdown is not out of the question either and would be icing on the cake.

Owners beware

Marshawn Lynch vs. St. Louis — #2 in weekly rankings

I know we have Lynch ranked high this week and you should definitely still start him, but beast mode hasn't been activated in a while which is cause for concern. Lynch only carried the ball 10 times last week against Dallas in a 23-30 loss. Those 10 carries were his second lowest output since Week 2 against San Diego. In that game, he ran just six times in a 21-30 loss. It would seem the Seahawks might be starting to realize their success hinges on Lynch being used more in the run game. It's also worth noting Lynch hasn't run for more than 100 yards since Week 1 against Green Bay.

The Seahawks play the Rams at home, a division rival with a history of giving Seattle trouble no matter what the records are. The Rams defense are also playing better as of recently. They kept Frank Gore in check last Monday night, allowing him just 2.8 yards per carry on 16 rushing attempts. They held LeSean McCoy to under 100 yards a week earlier as well.

Another interesting twist is the Percy Harvin trade, a move which reportedly made Lynch and a few other players irate.

With Harvin gone, the Seahawks might need to rely on Lynch even more so if the Seahawks receiving core doesn't pick up the slack. The Rams could easily stack the box and force more throws from Russell Wilson, something that would keep Lynch from getting more carries. He's still startable, but there's some uncertainty this week.

View FFSwami's flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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