The Miami Dolphins recently fired head coach Joe Philbin and promoted Dan Campbell to take the reigns. The results? After averaging 14 points per game over their first four games, the Dolphins posted 38 and 44 points in the two games coming out of their bye week. Lamar Miller has seen his points per game average rise from 6.7 to 22.6, his carries per game increase from 9.25 to 14, and his yards per carry improve from 3.5 to 7.2. In fact, the entire offense has gotten a boost. What we thought we knew about the Dolphins in terms of fantasy value and production changed dramatically overnight. Of course, new Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was quick to point out that not all change is good, or immediate.
Mike Mularkey has now replaced Ken Whisenhunt at the helm in Tennessee. What we thought we knew about the Tennessee Titan players, in fantasy terms, no longer applies. All we have are unknowns. That might create a buying opportunity. Supposedly, Antonio Andrews is the workhorse. Rumors in the twitterverse say that David Cobb was a little overweight last week and might not be activated for Sunday’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. This means that the rookie’s price on the wire may be suppressed. We’ve seen how quickly the pecking order can change in one snap due to an injury, fumble, or simply the hot hand. Kendall Wright is dealing with a knee injury and may not be able to suit up on Sunday. This means that 6’5” Dorial Green-Beckham should be on your radar. He’s been non-existent in the Titans offensive scheme to this point. Due to the aforementioned, that could change. Entering Week 9, DGB remains a desperation flex play, though for DFS players the matchup against the Saints secondary might be worth the cheap Hail Mary in GPP contests. Depending on his usage, the rookie has decent upside in season-long leagues as we head down the stretch. If you were impatient and cast him off a week or two ago as I did, you may want to use a token amount to get him back if you can afford the roster space. Don’t forget about Harry Douglas either.
Pep Hamilton is out as Offensive Coordinator in Indianapolis. Pep has been criticized in previous years for trying to ‘force’ the run game, even when it’s not there, only turning to Andrew Luck when trailing late in games. The Colts brought in Andre Johnson to give the passing game another weapon, but they’ve been unable to utilize the former Texans star. The Colts brass has been coy and deceptive about Luck’s injuries and there’s no way to be sure about the quarterback’s health moving forward. Having said that, now that Rob Chudzinski is calling the shots, I expect the Colts to open things up more. It will be interesting to see if they figure out how to get Andre Johnson to contribute more. Yes, he looks slower, but not enough to explain why he’s been unplayable in fantasy this year. He’s 34, not 45, and just a year removed from being a solid WR3 with an inferior QB. In 2014, he outproduced Keenan Allen, Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson. Only time will tell if AJ will become flex worthy again. Keep an eye on Dwayne Allen’s usage as well.
You don’t need me to tell you about Jeremy Langford, but it will take most of your FAAB to get him.
Various players of interest:
Karlos Williams has the burst and speed but has been sidelined with concussion symptoms the last few weeks. The underrated fifth-round pick has resumed practicing and is on target to return to game action this weekend. LeSean McCoy is the only thing standing between him and a full complement of snaps.
If you are a glutton for punishment, you can try to roster Kendall Gaskins or Jarryd Hayne. With Blaine Gabbert taking over passing duties, defenses will stack the box. If you’ve got to drop Arian Foster and it’s just a $1 flier, sure. Otherwise pass.
Peyton Manning finally gets his replacement for Julius Thomas with the acquisition of Vernon Davis. Denver’s offensive line looked reborn against Green Bay, and coming off two weeks of rest, Peyton was able to throw accurate deep passes again.
With Keenan Allen out for the year and San Diego playing from behind a lot, Malcom Floyd might benefit from the volume.
Rounding out the list are Dwayne Harris, Marques Colston and Jay Ajayi.
Over the past few days, I’ve been perplexed as to how much the press has flocked to Bryce Harper’s defense. Right said Fred was too sexy for his shirt. Is "The Kid" too sexy to hustle? If merely 5% of the rumors I’ve heard about the Washington Nationals right fielder are true, it makes it very hard to root for the guy. CJ Nitkowski’s piece nails it. Of course, all of this Jonathan Papelbon hate works well for the fantasy investor trying to spot market flaws. The mercurial closer continues to be the most reliable, consistent, and undervalued source of saves on the rotisserie market. I can’t help but think disdain for his personality is what’s driving his price down. It’s certainly nothing in his repertoire. While others chase the elite relievers in the early rounds, and the steep opportunity costs that come packaged with them, just be patient and wait for Papelbon, who is often still on the board in the 10th and 11th rounds (2014 ADP was 132). He’s there later than he should be every year.
Alas, baseball is winding down and football is in full swing, so let’s move our attention to the latter.
Sifting through the free agent chaff
If you have dead space on your 14-team roster, Brice Butler is a $1 stash and hold option. With 4.39 speed in Dallas, he has the upside you covet in deeper leagues. Time will tell if he can learn the playbook enough in time to become a factor before Dez Bryant returns from injury.
Those of you from Buckeye country are already well familiar with Devin Smith, who was on the field for 63 snaps and caught three of nine targets in his NFL debut. The burner from Ohio State should see his role increase as he becomes more familiar with the route tree in New York. He’s still available in some 12-team leagues and is worth an immediate pickup but remains a slight desperation flex play in the short term. A very high ceiling here if he continues to get targets. Keep in mind veteran Jeremy Kerley caught six of 11 targets and a TD in Week 3. I targeted both as handcuffs to Eric Decker. Brandon Marshall should get the attention from the best opposing corners, creating decent matchups for Ryan Fitzpatrick. David Gibson, who breaks down game-tape better than anyone else I know, had this to say:
"Devin Smith has elite speed and an uncanny knack for tracking the ball and making circus catches. This makes him ideal for taking the top off a defense, teams that want to cheat a safety up in the box to support the run will give up the deep ball when Smith is on the field. He is fearless when tracking the ball. While this contributes to his ridiculous yards per catch stats, it will also lend to his exposure to injury at the NFL level."
Joique Bell has devolved into a slow plodder good for 1-yard and a cloud of dust coupled with limited touches. That’s not going to get it done. The Chronicles of Theo Riddick is worth a look as a marginal flex option in 14-team leagues. The Lions inept offensive schemes spell 2nd half deficits in which the Lions will have to throw to catch up. Add in a thoroughly banged up Matthew Stafford who will be looking to unload the ball quickly and you have a potential PPR bailout here if you’ve got a hole to plug.
There are many traps that can befall you when looking for an edge. One of those is the "team giving up the most points to (insert position here)." And yet, I am going to go to that well here due to the one-week wonders created by the beloved Oakland Raiders: Tyler Eifert, Crockett Gillmore and Gary Barnidge. This week, Martellus Bennett ($4,500 in DraftKings) and the Chicago Bears host the men in black and the price is right.
Karlos Williams ($3,400 in DK) looks great on tape. In fact, to my eyes, he appears to have more burst and top end speed than Slim Shady McCoy. The latter is dinged up and it’s looking more as though the rookie will get the start. Lock and load him into your GPP lineups this weekend.
The Kansas City Chiefs cornerbacks haven’t been able to stop anyone this year. Andy Dalton ($5,900) isn’t exactly Aaron Rodgers ($7,900), but the Bengal is still set up for a nice fantasy matchup and A.J. Green ($7,600) owners must be licking their chops. Marvin Jones ($3,900) is also worth a look for those seeking players with a little less ownership.
Double check the inactives Sunday morning but my gut tells me that Arian Foster ($7,000) won’t be ready against the Atlanta Falcons, making Alfred Blue ($3,900) an inexpensive option with a great matchup.
The NFL has become more pass oriented and wide receivers are being drafted earlier in fantasy drafts. That is no secret. The question is just how significant these changes are. All of the running back busts in 2014 have added fuel to the “Zero-RB” fire. Is it justified? The following table lists the results from my NFFC Primetime Main Event draft, first listing the order taken within the position, and listing the season total points rank within that position in the final column.
|Running||Points Per||Total Points||Wide||Points Per||Total Points|
|1||LeSean McCoy||13.1||10||1||Calvin Johnson||16.8||25|
|2||Jamaal Charles||18.3||7||2||Demaryius Thomas||22.9||2|
|3||Adrian Peterson||11.3||118||3||A.J. Green||17.8||32|
|4||Matt Forte||22.9||1||4||Dez Bryant||18.5||7|
|5||Marshawn Lynch||18.7||4||5||Julio Jones||19||6|
|6||DeMarco Murray||22||2||6||Brandon Marshall||14.2||19|
|7||Eddie Lacy||16.3||8||7||Jordy Nelson||20.1||4|
|8||Montee Ball||7.4||77||8||Antonio Brown||24.6||1|
|9||Arian Foster||23.4||5||9||Alshon Jeffery||16.4||12|
|10||Le'Veon Bell||21.9||3||10||Randall Cobb||18.3||8|
|11||Giovani Bernard||14.3||20||11||Roddy White||15.2||24|
|12||Doug Martin||7.7||62||12||Keenan Allen||14.1||20|
|13||Shane Vereen||11.7||16||13||Andre Johnson||12.1||31|
|14||Zac Stacy||8.6||55||14||Michael Floyd||8.7||59|
|15||Reggie Bush||9.7||50||15||Larry Fitzgerald||12.2||46|
|16||C.J. Spiller||9.2||53||16||Pierre Garcon||9.8||51|
|17||Rashad Jennings||15.9||21||17||Cordarrelle Patterson||7.3||68|
|18||Andre Ellington||14.9||9||18||Vincent Jackson||10.9||39|
|19||Joique Bell||11.9||18||19||Percy Harvin||10.2||66|
|20||Chris Johnson||7.7||44||20||Michael Crabtree||11||36|
|21||Toby Gerhart||5.4||61||21||Victor Cruz||10.4||88|
|22||Pierre Thomas||11.8||36||22||Emmanuel Sanders||20.3||3|
|23||Alfred Morris||13.1||11||23||Julian Edelman||14.8||15|
|24||Ray Rice||-||-||24||Torrey Smith||12.2||30|
|25||Ben Tate||8.2||4.6||25||Marques Colston||13.9||34|
What does this tell us? Going on points per game to give us an idea of the type of player we are getting, an RB1 on draft day scores an average of 16.4 ppg while a WR1 posts 18.2 ppg. The wide receivers still have the edge in the 2nd tier, as WR2’s edged the RB’s 10.8 to 10, but the gap narrows. Keep in mind we are looking at WR1’s as defined on draft day (the top 12 picks at WR), not the top 12 scoring during the season. Just shooting from the hip, a quick glance at the numbers seems to indicate more consistency at wide receiver. Someone better at math than I could crunch the standard deviations from ppg production in previous years to confirm this, but the WR1’s seem to give owners what they were expecting. Other than a handful of games missed by Megatron and Green, the top tier wideouts remained healthy and reliable week to week. The top tier running backs, on the other hand, were an enclave of unpredictability. Sure, Slim-Shady McCoy technically put up RB1 numbers, but do you know of any owner that isn’t ticked off at him? Apart from Perry Van Hook, who saw Matt Forte as being worthy of a 1.1 pick, I know of no other expert that foresaw Matt Forte’s level of production. DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell both had breakouts unanticipated by the market. Even though the 2nd tier of receivers wasn’t as reliable as the 1st tier, you generally had a decent floor, whereas the RB2’s were chock full of injuries and diminished roles. Doug Martin has been hurt most of the time and even when healthy, he has been ineffective. Rashad Jennings missed significant time due to a knee injury. Chris Johnson is usually an afterthought in an impotent New York Jets offense. Toby Gerhart missed time with a foot issue and lost his job upon returning to the lineup due to ineffectiveness. Zac Stacy, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Pierre Thomas, C.J. Spiller…the second shelf of running backs is loaded with fantasy carnage. These players were drafted between the 4th and 6th rounds, something to keep in mind when developing your roster construction strategy.
I’ve played High Stakes Fantasy Baseball and Football for 12 years now. I’ve dealt with all of the major companies. If you want a great draft experience and the best customer service in the Fantasy Industry, Greg Ambrosius and Tom Kessenich at the National Fantasy Football Championship have been setting the bar for over a decade. There’s still time to jump into the NFFC waters. Today we’ll scan the current ADP, looking for the most notable market price tags.
1.1 - Adrian Peterson – All-Day’s record setting 2012 performance is a distant memory. AD followed that up with the 9th best running back performance. Some think he will be refreshed with the year off. The 30-year-old also has over 2,000 career carries, so he’s no longer a spring chicken. The #1 ADP speaks more to the instability of the other running backs than it does to anything else.
1.9 - Odell Beckham – Hands down the most valuable wide receiver last year. Was there a championship team on the planet that didn’t own him? 24.7 ppg is the highest total a WR has posted in NFFC history, outpacing even Randy Moss of the 2007 New England Patriots. I get it. It’s only one season, he’s small (5’11”), and he’s got that hamstring issue. He’s also got the highest ceiling in the receiver pool.
2.6 – Brandin Cooks – Was a low in WR2 last year before his season ended in Week 11. He’s the 9th receiver coming off the board, which means his upside is already figured into the price.
3.6 – Jimmy Graham – I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. Not in this offense. Seattle only passes when they have to. Expect his target numbers to drop significantly.
4.12 – Doug Martin – I’m so tired of him looking good in the preseason, then looking more like Ickey Woods getting some cold cuts at the deli once they turn on the lights. The offensive line hasn’t completely gelled yet. The Muscle Hampster will most likely be somebody else’s problem this year.
5.11 – Peyton Manning – The Rams defense dominated the Broncos in Week 11. After that, Peyton Manning was a new person. That new person, and the Broncos’ run first philosophy, was not a sight for sore fantasy owners' eyes. The elder Manning posted 15.8 ppg over the last five weeks, ranking 30th in the NFL. Enjoy. Maybe the Broncos offense reverts back to its aerial form in 2015, maybe it doesn’t.
6.4 – Joseph Randle – I smell a committee. His stock is falling and still might not be worth the risk.
8.2 – Victor Cruz – How much faith do you have that his knee will hold up? It’s still a relatively high price for high risk. Even when he plays, he’s not going to be the same.
9.11 – Devin Funchess – Yes, it’s been a rough preseason and the offense is a mess, but he’s big (6’4”, 232 lbs.) and somebody has to catch passes in Carolina.
10.3 – Seattle DST – Just say NO to drugs….and drafting a defense in the first 15 rounds.
11.11 – Matt Jones – The buzz is there’s a committee brewing in Washington and that Matt Jones fits their offensive scheme better. Noise or signal?
12.8 – Dorial Green-Beckham – This size-speed specimen (6’5”, 237 lbs., runs a 4.49 40) is technically buried on the depth chart. If you have the room to stash him, this rookie could make an impact in the second half of the season.
13.7 – Phillip Dorsett – A small rookie (5’10”, 185 lbs.) that doesn’t figure to make a fantasy impact. The Colts’ first-round pick is a situational deep threat that might catch lightning for you in a daily game and disappoint you elsewhere. Think Philly Brown with no experience calling Lucas Oil Stadium his home.
14.4 – Cody Latimer – Peyton Manning hasn’t been happy with his performance, which is all you need to know. He’s cheap for a reason.
I awoke late Sunday morning, flipped on the tube and awaited the latest injury and weather updates that might affect the afternoon games. Tweets of a whiteout in Foxborough came rolling in. The images on the television betrayed the hyperbole, but no small amount of snow had covered the pitch. Word came from reporters on the scene that “blizzard-like conditions” with sustained winds over 20 mph and gust of 50 mph were bound to wreak havoc on both offenses. The Broncos would lean heavily on Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson. The Patriots would feed either Shane Vereen or Jonas Gray. It was a beautiful plan. The only problem was neither John Fox nor Bill Belichick got the memo and the Snow Miser left the stadium prior to the 4:25 kickoff. Chicken Little has this way of stirring the starting lineup pot with foreboding weather reports. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were so intimidated that they limited themselves to 110 pass attempts for 771 yards.
Mychal Rivera is 6’3” and weighs in at 245. The sophomore reeled in eight catches and found the end zone twice on Sunday. You might recall another relatively obscure Raider Tight End with a similar build that came out of nowhere a couple of years ago to be a mid-range TE1. Brandon Myers was an opportunist that filled a void. Right now, the Raiders are tied for last in the NFL with just two rushing TD’s. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are not getting it done on the ground. That means it’s on rookie Derek Carr’s shoulders to distribute touchdowns. Rivera doesn’t have great speed or moves, but he has good hands and is a strong, decent-sized target that won’t get pushed around in the red zone or when the Raiders need to move the chains. Predicting player usage is a little like Russian Roulette, but if the Raiders want to move the chains and increase their red zone efficiency, they’ll continue to give Rivera more looks.
Many of you heard Dennis Pitta touted as a sleeper during the preseason due to his skill set and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s Tight End friendly system. With Pitta on injured reserve, Owen Daniels is now the soup du jour in Baltimore and one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. The former Texan was Flacco’s most targeted receiver in Week 7 and Week 9 (missed Week 8 after having his knee scoped). Given Flacco’s inaccuracy when throwing more than 20 yards downfield, that trend could easily continue.
Minnesota Vikings wide receivers have been allergic to the end zone this year, finding pay dirt just thrice. Only the Kansas City Chiefs wideouts have been worse. Matt Asiata has shown flashes of being effective on the ground inside the five, but if he gets shut down, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may start looking more to Chase Ford, at least until Kyle Rudolph returns.
It seems like every year some young Cincinnati Bengals Tight End is hyped as a fantasy prospect. I fade that hype because, for the most part, Bengals coaches mistake tight ends for offensive linemen. They’re involvement in the offense has been minimal for over a decade. However, since Week 5, Jermaine Gresham has been Andy Dalton’s #2 target. A.J. Green is back and Gresham’s role will certainly diminish as Green’s snap count increases. Keep in mind, however, that turf toe has a tendency of flaring up rather easily. If it does, Gresham might be a serviceable fill-in for those dealing with injuries or bye week issues.
Nick Foles suffered a broken collarbone and will be sidelined indefinitely. Mark Sanchez is the next man up in the city of brotherly love. That’s all you need to know if you are stuck with Andy Dalton as your best QB. Even Greg Ambrosius could throw touchdowns in Chip Kelly’s system.
Michael Vick is pretty good when he’s not throwing interceptions and incompletions. Yes, I do but jest, but there is an element of truth in my jocularity. If you are desperate at quarterback, he might be worth the risk as a spot play in the right matchup, for instance Week 12, when the Jets face the Bills. Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton have byes that week, and Andy Dalton has to travel to Houston to face J.J. Watt. Would you want to roll out the Red Rifle if A.J. Green is out with turf toe again, or a strained foot, or whatever they want to call it this week?