A Defense can be one of the biggest conundrums in fantasy year in and year out. People tend to go with popular Defensive choices like the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers rather early in drafts. Just because it’s Round 10 doesn’t mean choose a defense. There are still valuable players and handcuffs to acquire during the latter rounds of a draft.
Going by the finishing statistics of 2016, only one defense finished in the top five as their projection at the beginning of the season. According to ESPN Scoring, Denver Broncos D/ST had an average ADP of pick 67 which is asinine and only scored 152 points in 2016. That’s mid-fifth round in 12-team leagues and mid-sixth round in 10-team leagues. Let me ask you a question would you rather have Broncos Defense or future 2016-17 MVP Matt Ryan whose ADP was pick 114.
Think smart on average defenses can score you 150 to 180 points in a good year depending on your league scoring. Every other position eclipses those numbers by mid-season. Kickers score more than Defenses do on average per year, and they get chosen as flier picks in the last round of every draft. Last season, the Atlanta Falcons Kicker Matt Bryant scored a whopping 212 points outscoring the highest Defense by 46 points, that’s astonishing for a position we thought was worthless.
It’s time to implore a new philosophy of choosing Defenses last in drafts instead of Kickers. Don’t panic when you see four or five Defenses already off the board here a few tips to finding the Defensive Gems of 2017. Choose a Defensive Unit with one of these qualities:
· D/ST VS Consistent Bad QB Play
o Look for a D/ST that goes up against a lot of inexperienced QBs like Brock Osweiler, any Cleveland Browns QB, or Blake Borltes. Zeroing in on a defenses schedule will help you find the gems you need that will help you succeed during the regular season.
o Bad QB Play turns into natural points either sacks or turnovers. Rookie QB’s have a tendency of struggling against any defense, so look for those type of matchups as well.
o For instance, the Chiefs was the No. 1 D/ST of 2016. They took advantage of games where they faced QBs like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Semian (twice), Jameis Winston, Brock Osweiler, and Blake Bortles. All of which are either young or turnover prone.
· D/ST That Creates Turnovers
o Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or San Diego Chargers were barely drafted but were some of the top turnover leaders. Tampa Bay led the league with four interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is a huge boost to any roster.
o Overall Arizona Cardinals high ranked defense lived up to expectation by creating a league-high 25 forced fumbles and 48 sacks.
· D/ST With a Lethal Special Teams Unit
o Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, and Philadelphia Eagles are teams that boast lethal Special Team units. Cordarrelle Patterson, Ty ”Freak” Hill and Darren Sproles are one of a kind talents that can take any kickoff return to the house.
All of these qualities are pertinent to selecting a Defense that will be beneficial to your team and draft position. I learned to wait on this position and collect value at others in 2016. So, try philosophy in 2017 and see if you can come out more dominant rosters from top to bottom. It always feels good to get bailed out from somewhere you least expected it.
This is the week. The third week in August, where the majority of you are polishing up your draft strategy for your fantasy football season. Keep in mind, it's not the first two picks that will make or break your fantasy season. It's the mid-to-late rounds where you select those 'red' players, as Redskins GM Scot McCloughan calls them.
Your studs are 'greens' and your starters are reds. You want as many quality reds as possible, guys who won't explode for tons of points but you can still count on on a consistent basis. It's important to find several players with ADP's past the 7th or 8th round who score in the 6-12 point range every week. Every year there's a few late-round gems that turn the tide of a fantasy league, and here's a crop of players that have as good a chance as any to be quality reds this season. These are the two players we're coveting most in 2015.
'Tier 1 sleepers'
Stevie Johnson, WR San Diego Chargers
Why he's a sleeper: Johnson is still a talented receiver. He was buried in a deep hole that was the San Francisco 49ers run-first attack in 2014, headed by a quarterback with accuracy issues and a coach that wasn't quite getting along with the management which eventually led to his leaving the team. Philip Rivers is now throwing Johnson passes, a quarterback that's thrown 30+ touchdowns in back-to-back seasons and is arguably the best quarterback never to win a Super Bowl. The Chargers will be without tight end Antonio Gates for the first few games of the season, their biggest red zone threat. Johnson has been a known red zone commodity back in Buffalo where he scored a bunch of touchdowns.
Average Fantasypros ADP: WR61, 190 overall (getting drafted in same group as Wes Welker, Markus Wheaton, Cordarrelle Patterson, Donte Moncrief)
David Cobb, RB Tennessee Titans
Why he's a sleeper: Cobb has been on our radar dating back to when he was about get drafted. He's a physical runner with underrated catching ability. He also plays on a team with a rookie quarterback and an underachieving running back ahead of him. Cobb has slowly been creeping up the Titans' depth chart and even earned some first team reps with Tennessee.
According to Coach Whisenhunt, David Cobb has earned himself some 1st team reps going forward http://t.co/9ZnVgvD95T— Fantasy Football (@FantasyFBReddit) August 15, 2015
Though he struggled in his first preseason game with only 26 yards on 8 carries, he still showed the physical toughness we noticed when he played in Minnesota.
Cobb won't hit homeruns on the field, but his desire to be aggressive and initiate contact with defenders makes him a primary goal line back for the Titans. Greene saw a team-high 19 carries inside the red zone and Cobb could very likely see similar numbers. He will share work with fellow running back Bishop Sankey at the start of the season and if Sankey proves to be ineffective like he has been since he started in the NFL, then Cobb could start to see bigger workloads in the later stages of the season. Cobb is also an underrated pass catcher and could pair well with accurate rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Average Fantasypros ADP: RB44, 135 overall (getting drafted in same group as Danny Woodhead, Charles Sims Jonas Gray)
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Finding a great tight end to anchor your fantasy football team is like discovering a rare white elk, a tiger mixed with a lion or a way to escape DeflateGate coverage. There are really only two sure-fire fantasy tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham) plus a consistently solid option (Greg Olsen) and a potential phenom who might still break a ton of hearts (Travis Kelce) due to his benign offense and deep-ball-impaired quarterback.
So when looking for a quality fantasy football tight end, there are several factors you should consider when drafting one.
First, he needs to be in an offense that scores a lot. That may sound simple, but you'd be surprised how many people draft talented tight ends on bad teams. Kelce is an example of that, as the Chiefs were not a very high-powered offense last season.
Kelce saw just 13 total targets in the red zone, which were more than any receiver in Kansas City. Kelce finished with 67 receptions on 862 yards and 5 touchdowns. Kansas City finished as the 24th most prolific passing offense in the league last season. While Kelce posted decent receiving numbers, you have to figure he could've been even better if in a pass-heavy offense.
The Chargers, on the other hand, were the 13th most prolific passing offense last season. Tight end Antonio Gates saw 19 total red zone targets and he made the most out of them, converting 12 of them into touchdowns, which served as the second-highest total of his career.
A team that scores a lot also has a chance to do damage in the red zone, a place where tight ends often thrive the most. They sneak underneath coverage and use their big bodies to shield defenders and make crucial catches on the most important part of the field — the end zone. It's no surprise Broncos tight end Julius Thomas racked up an immense amount of touchdowns due to the fact that he played in an offense with one of the best red zone quarterbacks of all time — Peyton Manning.
But when you can find a tight end that not only has the right situation, but is also one of the premier athletes at his position, then you have something unique. San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green has fitted the bill ever since he got paid bills in 2012 when the Chargers drafted him out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Green saw very little time on the field during his rookie year, as is common with most tight ends. But he made some waves in 2013, catching 17 passes on 30 targets for an eye-popping 376 yards. That's 22 yards per catch. Now, that's a small sample size and you expecting him to extrapolate his yards per catch numbers over say, 90 targets, would be unreasonable. Still, it gave us a glimpse of what Green could do if ever given a prominent role in the Chargers' offense. His slant touchdown reception in particular was a memorable one.
Downhill slope with light at the tunnel
Green's hype train blew off some steam in 2014, as he finished with a paltry 19 catches for 226 yards and zero touchdowns. Snap count played a large role. Green only saw 27 percent of the teams total snaps while Antonio Gates surprised most by proving his tank wasn't empty, and he wound up stealing the spotlight from Green by playing in 72 percent of the team's snaps. A noticeable discrepancy.
Now, some more consider Green's lack of ability to upend Gates on the depth chart as a slight against him. But I don't see it that way. Gates is one of the greatest tight ends of his generation. Even if you are a great tight end in your own right, Gates earned the option to play as long as he's still halfway decent and he showed he still was in 2014.
Luckily for Green, snap count likely won't be an issue in 2015. Gates is out for the first four games due to suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Green currently sits comfortably atop the tight end depth chart and should see the majority of the snaps in the beginning of the season. He truly is being thrown into the fray for the first time in his career. Expectations have never been greater for him.
A fourth-round pick by San Diego in 2012, Green was always considered the successor to future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates. At just 25 years old, Green is a monster of an athlete. He stands at 6'6 and weighs 238 lbs, not too many tight ends outside of Gronkowski and Graham have his kind of size. Package that with 4.5 speed and you have a player who can break away from most linebackers and even beat out corners and safeties if he gets a step.
We mentioned earlier how much a quarterback means to his receivers' fantasy value, and Green is blessed with one of the better ones. Philip Rivers is coming off his second straight 30-touchdown season and the 12-year quarterback has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in his last seven seasons. Rivers will add plenty of value to Green as long as Green is on the field.
Good ADP value
Green is currently listed as a TE24 according to Fantasypros.com. He's being lumped into the same group as guys like Larry Donnell, Jordan Reed and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. You could snag him as a TE2 with good value in the 12-15th rounds.
There's a lot to like about Green this season, but the biggest positive going for him is his increased snap count. The Chargers have waited for the right time to unveil him and this season is the perfect time to do it given Gates' suspension. According to the experts at Fantasypros, 61 percent say Green is better than his current ADP and I stand to agree. Draft him as a high-upside TE2.
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On Friday's episode of the podcast, the Helpers go full hipster and talk about players who they think will be cool in 2015 before they actually become cool. These are the deep sleepers everybody likes to hear about. We start talking about Andre Ellington and the Arizona running back situation before getting into the sleepers at the six minute mark.
Rob Housler, TE for Cleveland Browns
The Helpers start off talking about Rob Housler, the tight end for the Cleveland Browns. Housler is a guy that can stretch the seam. He's 6'5, 250 lbs. He was in a system in Arizona that just didn't use him properly. Now, he's in Cleveland where he has a chance to be the starting tight end with former starter Jordan Cameron now with the Miami Dolphins. He's going to have some trouble, he's going to run some wrong routes and cost his quarterback a pick or two. But, at the same time, he's going to stretch defenses with his speed. He has massive upside and finish among the Top 15 in tight ends. He has the potential to be as good as a TE8.
James White, RB for New England Patriots
They then talk about New England running back James White, a back who has the receiving potential to put up numbers similar to Shane Vereen. He caught all five of his targets, and I know it's a small sample size but it's still something to take note of. He's the perfect Bill Belichick running back in that he rarely fumbles. He only coughed up the ball twice in over 750 rushing attempts in college. He's an RB71 right now, going at the very back of drafts. He's playing behind LeGarrette Blount, a back that has dealt with off-field issues and suspensions in the past.
White was also drafted in the fourth round, so the Patriots have made an investment in him. He's a smart player with good burst and he runs hard.
Lance Dunbar, RB Dallas Cowboys
They then talk about Lance Dunbar as a potential fantasy option with the Dallas Cowboys. Dunbar is a good PPR sleeper this season. He caught 18 passes for 217 yards last season. The backfield in Dallas is a bit uncertain now with injury-prone Darren McFadden and unproven Joseph Randle serving as the top options. If things get hairy between the two, Dunbar has a chance to make a bigger impact.
Stevie Johnson, WR for San Diego Chargers
Rounding out the deep sleepers is Chargers wide receiver Stevie Johnson. Johnson is a WR68 according to fantasypros.com. He's one of the top receivers in San Diego right now. He's a proven player, he's had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He's had a 10 touchdown season, so he's proven at getting open in the red zone. The Chargers will be without Antonio Gates for a portion of the season, who was one of the biggest red zone threats for them last year. They will need somebody to replace those numbers and Johnson could be the guy. Plus, he's got Philip Rivers throwing him the ball, a quarterback that threw over 30 touchdowns in the last two seasons.
The instant impact rookie running back. Seemingly every year, one or two rookies are gifted with an opportunity to see a significant workload at a certain point in the season. Some are scheduled to be their team's starter form the get go (think Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in 2007) while others benefit from a stroke of luck due to an injury to the starting guy or the starting guy is struggling (Branden Oliver, Jeremy Hill in 2014).
As the NFL Draft nears, it's important to look at these situations so you can identify them and play them to your advantage. It's also important to look at past examples so you can hopefully spot a similar situation in the future.
What can the draft tell us about fantasy?
When it comes to identifying what round a player is more likely to have a higher probability of immediately producing at, it can vary by position. One obvious trend is that quarterbacks taken in Rounds 1-3 typically do better. Current top fantasy quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Ben Reothlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were all drafted in the first two rounds in their respective drafts.
When you look at the wide receiver position, DeMaryius Thomas was a first-rounder as was Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. Jordy Nelson was a second-round pick in 2008. Top 2014 fantasy wideout Antonio Brown was one exception to the rule. Brown was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.
Running backs are a different story
Even though there's been some late-round gems at the quarterback and wide receiver position, the running back position is place where you'll find perhaps the highest probability quality fantasy players. More frequently than you'd think, you'll find top fantasy running backs who were drafted in the later rounds or even went undrafted.
There's a lot of variables that play into running backs not getting drafted as high as they used to be, and we could list 1,000 more words telling you why that is, but for the sake of this argument lets just say the NFL is a copy cat league and selecting a running back later on is just the trend right now. Even the 2015 running back class, which is being hyped as the best in years, will still likely only draw two first rounders (Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon). So with a running back class as good as this one, which has many draftniks claiming it could be as good as 14 quality starters deep, it's important to look at how late-round running backs have come to the forefront in the past and made an impact on fantasy teams. Let's take a look at last year's impact fantasy running backs who were rookies.
Case study #1 — Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers (undrafted)
Oliver was ranked in the Top 40 among fantasy backs in fantasy points in 2014, which wasn't bad for a 5'8 undrafted rookie out of SUNY Buffalo. Oliver got his chance when starter Ryan Mathews went down with an MCL sprain. Of course, nobody saw Oliver's start coming after Mathews was scheduled to sit out the following week. Everybody had Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown pegged as the backups most likely to benefit, myself included. It goes to show you — always look all the way down on the depth chart before picking somebody up off the waiver wire. You never know what can happen.
Well, a stroke of luck happened and Oliver took off against the New York Jets. After Brown went out with a concussion early on and with Mathews already sidelined, Oliver feasted on the weak Jets passing defense and caught four balls for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushed for over 100 yards and finished with 29 fantasy points.
Watching that game, Oliver's ability in the passing game no doubt helped keep the defense and honest and led to him being more effective on the ground. Oliver also benefitted from Brown leaving the first half of that game with a concussion, which opened up the doors for him within the offense.
He didn't slow down afterward that game either. The Chargers leaned heavily on him the following week and Oliver made a nice second impression with a 101-yard effort against the Oakland Raiders and one touchdown. While those numbers were impressive, it's worth noting Oliver averaged just 3.9 yards a clip on 26 carries against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, so it was no surprise that Oliver's production eventually dropped off.
While he turned out to be a nice addition off the waiver wire for a brief stretch, Oliver's fantasy value hit a snag after he ran into some tough defenses that started with a 36-yard performance against Denver on Thursday night. He tossed in six more equally ineffective games before finishing with 582 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns for the year, with half of his fantasy points coming in those two games against Oakland and New York.
Oliver proved (at least in his rookie season) to be more of a scat, receiving type back. He's not a guy that can beat you with 20 carries per game. He's more of a Darren Sproles type player who will beat you out of the backfield. But in the right matchup against a weak passing defense, he proved he could produce for at least a few weeks.
One of the takeaways you can use from Oliver is to considers drafting backup running backs where the starter has an injury history. Now, this doesn't always work out. DeMarco Murray was injured almost every season but managed to finish 2014 without any major injuries to speak of. He did suffer a hand injury at one point, but it didn't slow him up much to create a ton of value for the backup running back on Dallas.
In the case of Oliver, starting RB Ryan Mathews also had a long injury history. So keep an eye out for running backs (especially the rookies in this draft) who get drafted to a team with a No. 1 back who is prone to sitting out games.
Next, always be keen on matchups. Oliver benefited from two easy defenses (New York Jets weak passing defense and Oakland's weak rushing defense) when he put up his best numbers.
Lastly, always make sure to scope out the entire depth chart of a team. Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown were the top backups but Oliver was also on the depth chart as well.
On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss several players who have gone on to new teams and assign new fantasy value to their respective situations. Players discussed include Andre Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, Frank Gore and Ryan Mathews. Plus Bill Walton drops. This is going to be fantastically fun.
NFL Free agency is upon us, and fantasy football value is about to shift all over the place like a bunch of tectonic plates under a fault line. With so many players moving around, there's always a lot to take in. But here are the biggest running back transactions so far and what their fantasy impact is.
Trent Richardson out, Frank Gore in
After the debacle of a trade that ended with Cleveland attaining a first-round draft pick in exchange for Richardson, the lifetime 49er is about to finally see what it's like to put on a different jersey after signing with the Indianapolis colts.. Gore turns 32 in May but the veteran back has shown remarkable consistency despite his age. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for the eighth time in his last nine seasons in 2014. Gore has also never averaged less than 4.1 yards per carry.
From an NFL standpoint, Gore made a great choice signing with Indy. It's a winning team with one of the Top 3 quarterbacks in the league. Gore will get another chance to compete to a championship in the somewhat weak AFC and the AFC South will be a cakewalk compared to the types of defenses he saw in the NFC West.
From a fantasy perspective, Gore will likely assume the role of former Colt Ahmad Bradshaw. Always an underrated receiver, Gore posted reception numbers of 61, 53, 43, and 52 from 2006-09 with San Francisco. He compiled those numbers before the run-minded Jim Harbaugh took the helm, which resulted in less passes being thrown his way.
Now that he's back on a team that passes a lot (Indy threw the ball 616 times last season which ranked 3rd highest in the league) expect Gore to see plenty of passes in the flat similar to what Bradshaw saw when he caught six receiving touchdowns over the first half of 2014. While Gore is a bit older than Bradshaw, he's also more durable, playing in all 16 games for the last four seasons.
Gore likely won't be the only back seeing snaps in the backfield, as Dan 'Boom' Herron showed some positive signs as a runner last year, but make no mistake Gore is going to be fantasy relevant as an RB2 this season.
LeSean McCoy out, Ryan Mathews, DeMarco Murray in
An injury prone back who's still in the prime of his career at 27, Mathews still has plenty of value as a running back and should see much better run blocking from the Eagles offensive line than the one he had in San Diego.
Obviously, you can't generate too much fantasy value if you're hurt, and Mathews has long been a guy who has never finished a season strong even when healthy. It's why the Chargers backed him up with so many other players (Danny Woodhead, Brandon Oliver and Donald Brown) in hopes of keeping him fresh throughout the season. But the situation is better in Philadelphia because of the offensive line. Plus, Chip Kelly's system will allow the athletic Mathews to use his conditioning to beat defenders rather than bruise through them.
As far as Murray goes, the former Cowboys running back will see plenty of runs as well in the offense. There should be enough ball to go around so that Murray and Mathews will remain fantasy relevant.
Start of the week:
QB – Phillip Rivers v. Oakland Raiders - #6 in Weekly Rankings
The Chargers bye week could not have come at a better time for Philip Rivers. He's coming off arguably the worst game of his career, a game in which he threw 3 INTs in a 37-0 thrashing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. The bye week allowed Rivers, who had been having his second consecutive great season to push the reset button and forget about the previous week.
There may be no better way to re-start a season after a reset, then to play at home against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are ranked 21st against opposing fantasy QBs, but this ranking does not tell the story about what to expect on Sunday. The Raiders, an already porous defense, will be without CB Carlos Rogers (knee) in the secondary and could be without CB D.J. Hayden (groin) and CB Travis Carrie (ankle). Rivers could have limited, below average players or even practice squad talent lining up opposite Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal as he looks to repeat the 300+ yard 3 TDs performance he had against these very Raiders in week 6.
DEF – Denver Broncos v. St. Louis Rams - #4 in Weekly Rankings
When NFL and fantasy football fans are discussing the Broncos, they’re almost always talking about the offense. Their offense is absolutely incredible and deserves every bit of attention it gets, but the Broncos defense is vastly under rated. The team has won five out of their last six games. In the wins during this stretch they have caused 8 turnovers and have sacked the QB 15 times. The Broncos jump out to big leads and Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and company do not lose their intensity in blowouts. The Broncos travel to St. Louis where Shaun Hill will be throwing his first pass in a game since week 1. The Broncos should be able to win big and rack up the sacks and turnovers that come from a shaky QB having to play comeback football.
QB – Eli Manning v. San Francisco - #11 in Weekly Rankings
It has been a disappointing season for the New York Giants and their fans, but not for Eli Manning fantasy owners. The younger Manning, the 11th ranked QB in standard leagues, is in the midst of a fantasy resurrection and is on pace for 30 TDs and 11 INTs. This is an incredible development one year after Manning threw 18 TD and 27 INTs. The loss of Victor Cruz has not been an issue since the emergence of a superior talent, Odell Beckham Jr., occurred in the same week.
This week Manning’s matchup is not an easy one with San Francisco (Ranked 8th vs. QBs) coming to New Jersey, but the Giants welcome back a key piece of the receiving (and running) game in Rashad Jennings. Jennings absence in the passing game and in pass protection could not be filled by rookie, Andre Williams or over the hill, Peyton Hillis. Jennings' return should improve the Giants offense, an offense in which Eli had already been thriving as a fantasy QB just about every week. Keep him active if you have bye week issues or if you are playing matchups at QB.
DEF – New Orleans Saints v. Cincinnati - #6 in Weekly Rankings
In four games since their Week 6 bye, the New Orleans Saints defense has caused 8 turnovers and has had 15 sacks. Sure sometimes a great matchup or two can lead to a bunch of sacks and turnovers, but these specific weeks happened to be played against some of the league’s best quarterbacks. The 8 turnovers and 15 sacks were against teams led by Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick. Week 11 presents a home game against a lesser talent, Andy Dalton. Dalton is coming off the worst game by a QB this season (86 yards passing, 3 INTs) and has had only 2 TDs vs. 6 INTs in his last four games. The Saints will smell blood in the water early and will inevitably feast on more of Dalton’s mistakes.
QB – Russell Wilson at Kansas City - #15 in Weekly Rankings
Fantasy football is a funny game. When the Seahawks were struggling to win games, Russell Wilson was thriving as a top 3 fantasy QB. Now the Seahawks have won three in a row and Wilson is in the midst of a slump. In the last three weeks, Wilson has failed to reach 200 yards passing and has combined for only 2 TDs vs. 3 INTs. His 107 rushing yards against the Giants in Week 10 helped salvage a putrid fantasy performance but I would not expect another 100+ rushing yards on the road against the Chiefs, a team who actually will realize that Russell Wilson is a threat to run.
The Chiefs rank 1st in passing yards against and have not allowed a QB to score 20 fantasy points since week 2 against Denver. This stretch includes games against Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, and Philip Rivers. Their defense has five legitimate stars in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe, guys who get after the QB and stuff the run. In the secondary, Eric Berry and Sean Smith prevent big plays from occurring. This should be a tight low scoring game, a game where you would be smart to stay away from Russell Wilson.
Defense – Washington v. Tampa Bay - #11 in Weekly Rankings
When judging the Week 11 fantasy defenses, after the top 8 or so defenses, there is a large group bunched together all who are poor teams with good matchups, or good teams with poor matchups. It's tough to figure out what to do with these teams. One team in particular is the Washington Redskins who have an ideal matchup on paper at home against Tampa Bay. Tampa is ranked 30th against opposing fantasy defenses, while Washington is ranked 30th overall as a fantasy defense on the season. However there are encouraging signs that one of these teams may not be as poor as their ranking. Tampa Bay made the move at QB back to Josh McCown.
Rookie Mike Evans has begun his ascent to becoming Tampa Bay’s top wideout. Charles Sims is an exciting rookie RB who will be getting a chance to shine from here on out. Lastly, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is starting to come into his own having caught TDs in two out of his last three games. I do not nearly have as many good things about the Washington Redskins defense.
They have had one week of relevance against the Cowboys and have been otherwise awful. If one of these 30th ranked units has the ability to be better it is definitely Tampa Bay. I do have the Redskins ranked 11th, but if one of the top 10 in the rankings is available in your league do not hesitate to grab them on the waiver wire because this matchup makes me nervous.
The three week long storm (of bye weeks) is finally coming to an end. If the last 2 weeks were a fantasy football hurricane, monsoon, and/or tornado for you, this week should only be partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. The worst of the storm is over, and if you’ve come away with little to no damage, then congratulations to you. If you’ve sustained irreparable damage then you have my condolences. I personally escaped fantasy destruction due to the fine work of running back/fantasy football contractor, Marshawn Lynch. The walls he erected and insulation he installed at approximately 4:25 EST on Sunday totally shielded me from disaster. He’s an expert builder as he’s built specifically for me a nearly insurmountable lead in my division that should put me into the week 15 semifinals via bye. I hope you’ve hired someone even half as reliable as my beast mode contractor, Marshawn Lynch, to get you through the coming Winter weather.
We’re back to a manageable four teams with byes, and two of those teams are barely relevant in the fantasy world (Jets, Jaguars). However, not everyone is in the clear as owners of DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Chris Ivory, Denard Robinson, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Torrey Smith are still left with holes in the starting lineup.
You can use the following sleepers and busts advice to ensure that your Week 11 and fantasy football future will be disaster free.
Without further ado, your week 11 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Colin Kaepernick at New York Giants. It’s been a strange year for Colin Kaepernick and his owners. He’s had one complete dud to this point, but he’s also only had one performance that can be considered very good. The rest of his games have just been average, ordinary and boring in terms of fantasy scoring. He’s ranked 13th among fantasy QBs, but the film shows that he should be ranked significantly higher. This past week Anquan Boldin dropped 4 passes including one that would have gone for a long TD. Boldin dropped a TD a few weeks ago from 3 yards out as well. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis can’t stop dropping passes. They each dropped 2 passes while I was writing this sentence. And Kaepernick owners remember all too well, a play where Davis and second TE, Derrick Carrier, ran into each other in the endzone on a sure TD pass.
At least a few hundred yards and at least a few TDs have been left on the table because of the 49ers pass catchers’ dropped passes. This week the 49ers travel to East Rutherford to face the New York Giants, a defense that is banged up in the secondary and at LB and is struggling mightily. The Giants rank 25th in passing yards against and dead last in rushing yards against.
The Giants last 4 opponents have scored between 27-40 points. If you watched the Giants game in week 11, you’d think they didn’t know that Russell Wilson was a running threat in the read-option game. Wilson struggled as a passer, but as a runner he ripped off several chunks of 15-30 yard gains en route to 100+ yards rushing.
Colin Kaepernick brings a similar skill-set in the run game and the 49ers sport a pass catching core of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and Vernon Davis. Sure these players (other than Boldin) have under achieved, but the Giants simply do not have the talent or play calling intelligence on defense to match up with the 49ers. Look for the 49ers to spread out the Giants, and for Kaepernick to run for a high rushing total while picking them apart in the passing game. Before any Giants fans attack me…..I am a diehard Giants fan. It just is what it is.
I’d Start Colin Kaepernick over: Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson
· Mark Sanchez at Green Bay. It’s been a fun two weeks for the Sanchize and his owners but the fun takes a temporary hiatus this week in Green Bay. I give Mark Sanchez (and Chip Kelly) a ton of credit for his success in his first start this season, but it occurred at home, in mild weather, against a pitiful Carolina defense. After easy matchups against the Texans (Ranked 19th against QBs) and Panthers (Rank 27th against QBs), the Packers present Sanchez his first real challenge.
They rank 9th in passing yards against and 12th against opposing fantasy QBs. The Green Bay defense will be riding high as they’re coming off a near perfect game against the Chicago Bears. The high temperature at Lambeau is projected to be only 28 degrees. Sanchez will have to throw a frozen ball, against a quality secondary, with Clay Mathews and Julius Peppers bearing down on him all game.
Even if we don’t see the old, turnover prone Sanchize from the Jets, this matchup does not bode well for a QB making just his second start since 2012.
I’d Start the following players over Mark Sanchez: Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Josh McCown, Shaun Hill
· Branden Oliver vs. Oakland. Many Brandon Oliver owners have cut bait on the young RB. Before the bye week Oliver had struggled and the return of Ryan Mathews is finally here. I am here to say that if you haven’t cut bait yet, give it at least one more week and get him in the lineup! Sure, Ryan Mathews is back…sort of. The sources out of San Diego are saying that Mathews is expected to receive approximately 15 touches.
Let’s think about this. In a matchup at home against Oakland, a game in which the Chargers should win running away, Mathews will receive 15 touches. Fine, so how many touches does that leave for other SD running backs including Branden Oliver? Since this game should be a blowout I’ll use the numbers in two Chargers blowout wins earlier this season. Against Jacksonville in Week 4, San Diego RBs received 27 touches and against the Jets in Week 5, San Diego RBs received 43 touches. Since San Diego has played Oakland already, the 33 touches RBs received in that Week 6 game are relevant as well.
Therefore, if Ryan Mathews does receive 15 touches as advertised, then that leaves Oliver and/or other SD backs with 12-28 touches. Even if we stay on the lower end of this range and say he gets 14-18 touches, that is a huge number of touches against a team that ranks 27th in rushing yards against. It’s important to note that Oliver had 124 total yards and a TD in his previous meeting with Oakland. Owners may have sourced on Oliver but his previous three games have been difficult matchups against the Chiefs, Broncos and Dolphins. This game is easier and offers huge upside to Oliver and his owners. Use him as a RB2 with confidence.
I’d start Branden Oliver over: Bishop Sankey, Ben Tate, Lamar Miller, Joique Bell
· Jeremy Hill at New Orleans. This could be a knee jerk reaction, but I just cannot forget what I witnessed in the Bengals/Browns game in Cincinnati last Thursday. Andy Dalton played one of the worst games I’ve seen in recent memory. I hope he has a Men In Black flashy thing available because he needs to forget everything that happened in that ugly, ugly, ugly game.
I do not see the cure for his struggles being a road matchup against an angry desperate Saints team who has forced 8 turnovers and 15 sacks in the last four weeks. We could see another lopsided score which will once again result in another low output from Jeremy Hill. Last week, Hill had only 61 total yards. In his last three games he has had one big time game in Jacksonville sandwiched between two disastrous games against Baltimore and Cleveland. He will go as the offense goes, so unless Dalton gets back on track immediately, Hill will struggle. I just don’t see Dalton being able to get over a 10-for-33. 83 yard passing performance in a difficult environment like New Orleans.
I’d start the following players over Jeremy Hill: Frank Gore, Andre Ellington, Shane Vereen, CJ Anderson, Branden Oliver
· Pierre Garcon vs. Tampa Bay. Pierre the waiter is a forgotten man. The emergence of DeSean Jackson has turned last year’s NFL leader in receptions into an unreliable WR 3/4. He’s a matchup play and this week I believe the matchup is ripe. For one, I believe that one of the main goals of the Redskins bye week was to renew the chemistry between RG III and his WRs, especially Garcon. Secondly, the Buccaneers, a team that ranks dead last against opposing WRs in .5 PPR leagues are coming to Washington.
Roddy White is a WR who is past his prime but still runs effective routes and even he registered a big day against the hopeless Bucs defense. White was getting free in the middle of the field for 10-25 yards at a time on slant and seam routes, and he capitalized on an even easier short crossing route for a TD.
Garcon is a younger, crisp route runner in the mold of Roddy and he should be able to capitalize off Tampa Bay’s inability to cover well run routes in the middle of the field. Garcon can pay huge dividends in the right matchup so try to put his struggles aside and get him in the lineup in deep leagues that start 3 WRs.
I’d Start Pierre Garcon over: DeAndre Hopkins, Jordan Matthews, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin
· Brandon LaFell at Indianapolis. When Vontae Davis got injured just a handful of snaps into the game in week 8 against Pittsburgh, the floodgates opened and Pittsburgh put up 51 points. Even after giving up all of those yards and TDs to Big Ben, the Colts still rank 9th against opposing fantasy WRs. When Davis is healthy they are in the top 3. Vontae Davis is the best cornerback in the business. Bill Belichick knows this.
Belichick is the type of coach who is matchup specific in his game plans and he will not force the ball to his big play WR if the matchup isn’t right. Davis had been playing through an injury before the bye week and has had two weeks to recover and prepare.
LaFell has been a nice story and he and Rob Gronkowski have been the keys to the Patriots high powered passing attack since the Pats turned their season around several weeks ago. The Patriots can and probably will succeed passing the football but look for it to be with Gronk, Edelman, Vereen and maybe Tim Wright. LaFell should not be used in 3 WR formats this week.
I’d start the following players over Brandon LaFell: Vincent Jackson, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, John Brown
· Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Washington. Seferian Jenkins is a raw talent who at this point in his career has shaky hands. However, he does get open a lot, and he receives enough red-zone and overall targets to hold matchup play value against a team who ranks 23rd against the TE, the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins are coming off back to back weeks where they were victimized by Vikings TE, Chase Ford, and Dallas’s Jason Witten who has not exactly been lighting it up. Josh McCown targeted Seferian-Jenkins 8 times last week and a successful redzone play was called specifically for him in last week’s loss to Atlanta. This marked the 3rd game in the last four where Seferian Jenkins had either topped 50 yards or scored a TD. He is a low end TE1 this week and should be started by teams who are playing the matchups every week or by those owners who drafted Vernon Davis or Dennis Pitta.
I’d start Austin Seferian-Jenkins over: Mychal Rivera, Larry Donnell, Charles Clay, Vernon Davis
· Mychal Rivera at San Diego. Everyone’s favorite pickup at TE has been a monster over the last three weeks with 21 catches, 185 yards and 3 TDs. Rivera has had immense short term value and he has long term value as well, but this week I’m going to say he has very little value. Rivera opposes San Diego the second ranked team against fantasy TEs.
The Chargers have shut down the likes of Julius Thomas and Travis Kelce as well as Rivera himself, who did not record a catch in week 6. Furthermore, Oakland and Derek Carr seem to be regressing on offense. Carr has not been able to sustain drives and he won’t figure it out all of a sudden on the road against one of the AFC’s top teams that are coming off a bye. It’s so hard to bench Rivera after the run he’s been on but these are the tough decisions fantasy owners have to make sometimes.
I’d start the following players over Mychal Rivera: Dwayne Allen, Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudolph, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
That’ll do it for week 11. Good luck in this last difficult bye week. Make sure you’ve stocked up and are well prepared for this last part of the storm.
On Monday's episode of First Aid, the Helpers discuss Ryan Tannehill's career performance and what it means for the Dolphins fantasy value going forward. They also hand out their weekly awards and discuss tonight's Monday night matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants.
San Diego Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill owners got to see something special on Sunday, and that something was the best game of Tannehill's young career. The 2012 first round draft pick went 24-for-34 for 288 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran four times for 47 yards and finished with just under 40 fantasy points for the day.
Tannehill owners should temper expectations in the coming weeks though, as the Dolphins face tough defenses in Buffalo, Detroit and Denver over the next three weeks. Not to say Tannehill can't put up solid numbers against those defenses, he can, but it's out of line Tannehill to put up QB1 numbers every week. He hasn't thrown for three touchdowns once this season, and achieved the feat just four times in two and a half seasons.
Philip Rivers flipped on the opposite day switch and played nothing like a quarterback who came into this game with one of the best TD:INT ratios in the NFL at 20:5. I guess you could say Rivers was due for a bad game after such a great first half of the season, but it didn't make his performance any less bearable. Rivers went just 12-for-23 for 138 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. It was the first game Rivers didn't throw a touchdown which was surprising considering the receiving core was healthy and Branden Oliver has proven to be a force in the backfield.
A big reason why Rivers had so much trouble was due to the pressure he was under throughout the game. Led by Cameron Wake and Rishard Matthews, the Dolphins got consistent pressure and forced Rivers to unload the ball before he wanted to. The Dolphins sacked Rivers three times and forced one fumble on the day, which they also recovered. The Dolphins defense finished with 22 fantasy points in standard leagues and has now strung together back-to-back games of scoring at least 20 points. They're only owned in about 40 percent of Yahoo! Leagues also.
As for the running game, Lamar Miller didn't post spectacular numbers but was very efficient none the less for Miami. Miller rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries and added a touchdown as well. The Dolphins' line did a good job creating lanes for him to run through and while Miller didn't approach 100 yards, he gave Tannehill much more freedom in the pocket because the run game was working so well.
On the other side, Branden Oliver struggled for the second straight week. Oliver was consistently bottled up in the backfield and finished with 13 carries for 19 yards (1.5 YPC). It's safe to consider benching Oliver in non-PPR leagues as Ryan Mathews will likely return to the lineup after the Chargers' Week 10 bye. Oliver has proven to be a nice change of pace back who can catch the ball out of the backfield not unlike Danny Woodhead did last year for San Diego, but it' s looking more and more like the 5'8 Oliver may not have the size to be an every down back in the NFL.
The Helpers discuss their hits and misses from Week 6, give you some good buy low candidates to help fortify your lineup and analyze the San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders Week 6 game and its fantasy implications. They finish it off by answering a few of your fantasy questions.
Hits and misses
They nailed Matt Forte, Justin Forsett and Ben Tate. All running backs were among the Top 10 in the rankings this week and all of them performed well. They also nailed Andre Williams, who struggled in his first start against Philadelphia after many claimed he was in for a big week in the absence of Rashad Jennings.
Their misses include Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin, who they predicted as busts against Cincinnati and who instead went off for big days. Keep in mind, they did have an entire overtime to accumulate more stats. But yeah, they missed those.
It will be interesting to see what Jonathan Stewart will do to Newton's rushing stats if Stewart does in fact return this Sunday. Just something to keep in mind if you own Cam Newton.
Oakland/San Diego analysis
The Helpers analyze Week 6's game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. A shootout game, there were a couple break out fantasy stars in this one. Derek Carr put together his best game as a pro, throwing for 282 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.
A few things about Carr. He throws a remarkably accurate deep ball. Had the Raiders not dropped five passes in the first half, Carr could've put together a near perfect game. He's a boarderline QB2 going forward.
They then ogle over Philip Rivers stats for a second. Rivers, who was drafted as a QB2 in most leagues, has the most fantasy points of any quarterback not named Andrew Luck through six weeks. He has five games of at least 20 fantasy points, which is fantastic consistency.
Another break out fantasy star was Raiders WR Andre Holmes. A guy dubbed a sleeper by many experts coming into this season, Holmes broke out for his first 100-yard game and added two touchdowns. His speed is unquestionable and when you add his size (6'4), he can do things on the field reminiscent of another former Raider by the name of Randy Moss. He's a fantastic flex option right now.
As far as tight ends go, Ladarius Green led the Chargers' TEs in receiving yards with 60 yards on four catches. Antonio Gates got the touchdown, but was held under 30 yards receiving. Gates remains a force in the red zone, and will continue to score touchdowns with his big body as long as he's matched up in 1-on-1 coverage. We like Gates more as a TE1 right now, but Green is slowly creeping his way into flex status.
Buy low candidates
Carson Palmer — When healthy, he has great weapons at receiver to work with in Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. He's also projected for 16 points in ESPN leagues this week. Those 16 points are more than many starting quarterbacks including Matt Ryan (who is only projected for 15). He has got an easier schedule coming up. The Cardinals play Atlanta, St. Louis, and Oakland in the next five weeks.
Sammy Watkins — Guy is an unbelievable talent. Though inconsistent at times, he's utilized in the offense and sees plenty of targets. He is also still developing chemistry with quarterback Kyle Orton, a guy who was basically plucked off the street after the Bills coaching staff was worried about E.J. Manuel's confidence. Orton has been on successful passing offenses in the past (most recently with the Denver Broncos in 2010) and if he starts getting more comfortable with the offense, expect Watkins to see more consistent numbers.
The Bills also have an easy slate of games coming up. They play the Jets twice, Minnesota, and also have Oakland around fantasy playoff time. We've seen rookie receivers come on late in their first year (think Cordarrelle Patterson last season) and Watkins is as good a threat as any to do just that. His value also isn't very high right now. He's a WR3 who you could trade a solid TE2 or even an RB2/3 to get. So if you play it right, you probably won't have to give up much.