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.
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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.
Start of the Week
Andrew Hawkins v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers #14 Weekly Rankings
With Josh Gordon suspended for the majority of the season, the Cleveland Browns needed someone to step up and try to fill some of the void left by Gordon. As many of our writer’s here at Fantasy Football Helpers have indicated, Andrew Hawkins has been the most consistent Browns receiver from a fantasy perspective.
Despite not having the body of a typical no. 1 receiver (5’7”) Hawkins is quietly having a very successful year, leading Browns' receivers in targets (52) receptions (36) and receiving yards (471), showing to be quarterback Brian Hoyer’s safety blanket.
This week Hawkins gets a juicy matchup with a Tampa team that has officially waved the white flag on the season after making a couple of trades at the deadline, including one for starting safety Mark Barron. The Buccaneers are currently giving up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers (29.4), and have given up a league-high 12 receiving touchdowns this season. Look for Hawkins to build on his hot-start as Hoyer picks apart the Buccaneers secondary this Sunday.
Dwayne Allen v. New York Giants
First thing's first, Andrew Luck is an absolute monster and should be one of the leading candidates to be the NFL’s MVP at the half-way point of the season. Luck has not had a game this year with fewer than 300 passing yards, and shown the ability to spread the ball around to the multitude of receiving options on the Colts offense. Even though there was some uncertainty early on as to whom would be the primary tight end for the Colts, Allen has cemented himself atop the tight end depth chart, proving to be the superior option in the passing game between Allen and Luck’s college teammate, Coby Fleener. Despite not having a high-volume of targets, Allen makes the most of his opportunities, finding paydirt in all but two games this season.
This week Allen gets an owner friendly matchup against a Giants defense that is currently allowing the 10th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and just gave up two touchdowns to Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar in week 8. Due to the recent history, and the Colts offense being one of the best in the league, I see Allen as a top-10 play in a week owners are scrambling to find bye-week replacements.
Pierre Garçon v. Minnesota Vikings #16 Weekly Rankings
Garçon owner’s are likely getting very frustrated with the Redskins receiver due to the reduction in fantasy production in Jay Gruden’s offense. However, this is the week I feel Garçon finally busts out of his slump.
With Robert Griffin III officially ruled active for the Redskins week 9 matchup with the Vikings, look for Garçon to once again be the focal point of the Redskins passing game. Despite having a suspect sophomore season, Garçon still led the team NFL in targets and finished second in receiving yards. This year, it was looking as if the two were going to continue their ways, as Garçon led the Redskins in targets (12) and receptions (10) in the team’s week one loss to the Texans.
Despite having a tough matchup with a Vikings defense that ranks in the top-5 in terms of yards-per-game I expect Griffin to try and establish a rhythm with both of his receivers, utilizing the short passing and screen game to get Griffin some early completions. I know that it has been hard to trust Garçon on a weekly basis, but if you had the patience I think you are going to be drastically rewarded very soon.
Michael Floyd v. Dallas Cowboys Unranked this Week
Despite having the big-play potential of the Cardinals receivers, third-year wide receiver Michael Floyd has struggled, failing to top 50 receiving yards or five receptions in any of his last five games. Floyd has been saved by a two touchdowns in his last three games to save any fantasy relevance, but with nagging injuries and an inconsistent workload, Floyd may be someone to keep on your bench this weekend.
It has been no secret that Floyd has been battling some lingering injuries over the last few weeks. He tweaked his knee last week against the Eagles, and even though Floyd was able to remain in the game the team started to feature rookie John Brown as the team’s vertical threat, showing the injury may be more serious than originally led on. Floyd has practiced in full this week and is on track to play, but I know as a fantasy owner I would feel much more comfortable rolling with Fitzgerald, or even the rookie John Brown as a potential sleeper, rather than roll the dice on potentially damaged goods.
Vernon Davis v. St. Louis Rams
Despite having being one of the most well known tight ends in the NFL, Vernon Davis is on the verge of being droppable for fantasy football owners. Since destroying the Cowboys in week one with two receiving touchdowns, Davis has failed to register a game with more than 3 receptions or 40 yards in any game.
Davis has also had a run-in with the injury bug, suffering back spasms after taking an award shot to the back from Demeco Ryans in week 4, causing him to miss the teams next game.
If I were a Vernon Davis owner, I would keep him as far away as you can from your starting lineup. As shaky as Davis is there are plenty of other options if you are looking for a potential bye week fill-in, such as Clay Harbor (v. Bengals) or Jace Amaro (v. Chiefs). While none of these players will produce at the TE1 level, both of them I feel have a better chance of reaching fantasy relevance than Davis does in week 9.
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Editor’s note: This is part three of an eight-part series where we will look at each team’s receiving core by division and analyze which receiver will be the favorite for most targets So you’re telling me. As fantasy owners know, targets are a crucial part of success for fantasy receivers. This week covers the NFC South.
2013 Atlanta Falcons
Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Most targeted receiver in 2013: Harry Douglas (133)
Harry Douglas was the top wide receiver on one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL last season. It shows you just how a team’s offensive philosophy can still produce fantasy worthy stats even if both starting receivers are injured.
The unlucky wideouts who contracted the injury virus in 2013 were Atlanta’s top two receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. White suffered from a high-ankle sprain and a hamstring injury, which limited him to his first season of less than 1,000 receiving yards since 2006, an incredible feat in and of itself.
Jones on the other hand, fractured his foot for the second time in his career in Week 6. His injury came shortly after he exploded for 580 receiving yards in the season’s first five games, dousing his potential career-year with a tub of gasoline and setting it ablaze.
Had both top receivers not gone down, Douglas would’ve remained a slot receiver, a spot where he was often productive from a change of pace and game plan standpoint but never accrued the kind of stats that would’ve garnered him significant fantasy appeal. A few unfortunate strokes of luck later, he upgraded himself to a reasonably reliable fantasy option, one that could produce at a high level and give fantasy owners steady doses of 70-80 yard efforts and even toss in the occasional 100-yard game.
At 6’0, 183 lbs, Douglas never expected to be utilized in an offense the way he was last season. Yet, even though he was undersized, he still produced. He finished with over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
Douglas also benefitted from other situations as well. With Jones out for the year and White not finding his groove until later in the season, Douglas competed only with veteran Tony Gonzalez for targets at times, leaving him as the lone receiver in an offense that threw the ball the second most times of any team in the league last season.
So if Douglas was as successful as he was last year, it means monster fantasy potential for the now healthy Jones and White this year. Plus, with the bigger, less athletic Levin Toilolo replacing the retired Gonzalez, there will be less targets used on the tight end position and even more on the receivers. It wouldn’t be crazy to see close to 180 targets for both White and Jones and also some flirting with 1,000 receiving yards.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is still firmly entrenched as the team’s franchise guy, and as long as the offensive line holds up, the sky appears to be the limit for this offense.
What could’ve been
Before his injury last season, Jones was on pace for nearly 2,000 receiving yards. He recorded as many as 15 targets in one game and never saw less than nine in that five-game stint. His 14.1 yards per catch ranked among the best in the league.
What they’re both capable of
When you look at what they Jones and White did in the 2011 and 2012 seasons when they were both relatively healthy, you could see White was still favored in the offense. In 2012, White drew 143 targets to Jones’ 129. Jones edged White in touchdowns 10:7 while White beat Jones in receiving yards 1,351:1,198. During Jones’ rookie year in 2011, White dominated in targets with 181 while Jones ended up with just 96. White and Jones both record eight touchdowns that season.
Three years later, and we have a 32-year-old receiver in White while Jones entering the all-so-important third season of his career. White is now fully healthy, signed to a new 4-year, $30 million deal and is still one of the most respected route runners which allows his performance to defy his age.
Jones is 25 years old, coming off foot surgery after he fractured his fifth metatarsal in his foot, which is fancy doctor language for the area around the middle of the foot. Luckily, doctors have said the injury doesn’t lead to long-term effects. Jones saw his first game action since last October against Houston last Saturday. He caught two passes for 20 yards on four targets and even though he’s got some catching up to do, he’s still on pace to be ready for the regular season.
When it comes to who will get more targets, the answer is probably White. But it doesn’t matter so much as Jones is equally talented and equally utilized in the offense. They’ll likely trade off who gets the hot hand from week or week, which could limit one’s upside almost like a receiver-by-committee style of offense. Jones clearly has the higher ceiling, and White is old reliable. White is the better ADP value right now at No. 45 overall, but Jones could shatter records if he’s healthy. It’s a great problem for Atlanta to have, and if you’re a fantasy owner, you can’t go wrong with either of them.
Likely most targeted receiver for 2014: White
Projected targets: 160
Editor’s note: This is part three of an eight-part series where we will look at each team’s receiving core by division and analyze which receiver will be the favorite for most targets. As fantasy owners know, targets are a crucial part of success for fantasy receivers. This week covers the NFC South.
While success during the preseason does not guarantee fantasy success, there were a few players who made positive first impressions. While most of the starters will not play more than a series or two in the opening week, that does not mean fantasy football owners will not take note on how prospective players are perform. Here are four players who are on the rise after their first preseason game.