Sunday morning updates:
As expected, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green are inactive. However, Jimmy Graham (shoulder) is a bit of a surprise active for Week 7. According to reports from New Orelans, he'll only be used in the red zone. That makes him a top-10 tight end, but not the slam-dunk play he is every week. I would still play Julius Thomas, Greg Olsen, Jordan Cameron, Martellus Bennett Antonio Gates, and Jordan Reed ahead of him.
The NFL sure has loved breaking news late on a Friday afternoon this season. This week, it was FOX’s Jay Glazer reporting that the Seahawks sent Percy Harvin to the Jets for a conditional draft pick. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of fantasy fallout, even for two teams in that don’t contribute all that much to the fantasy community. Let’s take each truly affected player one-by-one.
Harvin: Could it really be worse? Harvin was getting about 20 percent of the targets in Seattle. That might come down a bit, but it’s never been about raw target numbers for him. He’s not your traditional wide receiver whose numbers are naturally going to go up as he gets more targets. He’s a unique talent who needs to have an offense at least partially designed around him. In that vein, he was completely miscast in Seattle. That offense is dominated by Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and the rushing attack. Taking the situation on its face, it’s not a huge surprise Harvin never really caught on in Seattle.
The Jets just ponied up a lot of cash and a potentially significant draft pick to get Harvin. I wouldn’t expect them to do that just to misuse Harvin. He was on the field for just 60 percent of the snaps with Seattle this year. That has to go up now that he’s on the opposite coast. I still think his ceiling is that of a WR3. I was down on him for the same reason I was down on Cordarrelle Patterson coming into the season. They both need the rare-by-their-nature splash plays to put up useful fantasy numbers. Still, Havin’s better off now than he was a week ago.
Russell Wilson: While Harvin was never the weapon for Wilson many hoped he would be, his fantasy value still takes a hit as a result of this trade. For better or worse, Harvin was his most explosive weapon. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse provide stability outside, but neither is the sort of downfield threat Harvin can be. His saving grace could be Paul Richardson, who we’ll get to in a bit. Expect the Seahawks to lean even more on this next guy.
Marshawn Lynch: Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell already admitted that he erred in getting Lynch so few carries in both of Seattle’s losses this season. With Harvin gone, Lynch could be raining Skittles for the rest of the season. He has been as effective as ever this season, scoring the fourth most points among running backs through six weeks, and that includes a bye for the Seahawks. The only running backs who have outscored him this year are DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte and Arian Foster. All of those guys are having pretty nice seasons, wouldn’t you say? Lynch will remain in the top five at the position for the rest of the year.
The remaining Seattle receivers: Doug Baldwin becomes the de facto No. 1 receiver in Seattle, and the receiver I’d chase if I needed immediate value, while acknowledging that he has a low ceiling. He has been a disappointment this year, but had 50 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns last season. There is ability here, but the upside isn’t more than a WR3. If you’re a Harvin owner desperate for help this week, Baldwin is the add to make.
If you’re looking for upside on your bench, you’ll want to target Jermaine Kearse. The third-year man out of Washington has 11 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown on just 19 targets. It’s undeniably a small sample, but his 8.8 yards per target is impressive. His career yards-per-target number is 8.5, so this doesn’t appear to be just a one-year occurrence for him. We are talking deep leagues here, but if you’re in a 14-team or larger league, kick the tires on Kearse.
Paul Richardson is a wildly talented athlete who should get a shot now that Harvin is out of town. The rookie out of Colorado ran a 4.4 40-yard-dash at the combine and posted an impressive 10-foot, four-inch broad jump. The Seahawks took him in the second round after he put up 83 catches, 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns in his last season in Boulder. If you’re in a very deep league, check him out on your waiver wire.
Geno Smith: The embattled Jets quarterback gets another weapon, something he desperately needs. That doesn’t make Smith a serious fantasy option, though. He remains a low-end QB2, regardless of your format. That means he’s now a passable stream option in the right matchup in traditional one-quarterback leagues, and a borderline week-to-week starter in two-quarterback leagues. Let’s not get crazy, here. Harvin doesn’t move that needle for a below-average quarterback all that much.
Eric Decker: In my estimation, here’s the big winner of this trade. Decker absolutely needed some help on the other side of the field. He didn’t need Demaryius Thomas, but he needed someone who could challenge defenses and take at least a little bit of the pressure off of him. Jeremy Kerley just wasn’t getting the job done. Harvin may not be more than a WR3 in my estimation, but he is someone defenses have to respect. That’s really all Decker needed in his running mate. If the hamstring holds up for the rest of the season, he’ll be a solid WR2.
Jeremy Kerley: Bye. Thankfully.
Jace Amaro: Amaro created a little buzz with his 10-catch, 68-yard, one-touchdown effort two weeks ago, but then he got just five targets against the Patriots on Thursday night while Jeff Cumberland caught a 10-yard touchdown. Amaro’s too marginal a fantasy player for this to have any real impact on him. He’ll still be a fringe guy for the next few weeks to look at while your regular starter has a bye.
As for this week specifically, don’t start Harvin. Let’s get to the rest of the last-minute news you need to know for Week 7.
Recalibrating our expectations for Lacy. Again.
Many of the first round picks who stumbled early in the season have corrected course in the last few weeks. Matt Forte has 150 or more yards from scrimmage in four games this season and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. Demaryius Thomas has 340 yards and three scores over his previous two games, and is now on pace for 99 catches, 1,571 yards and 13 touchdowns, rounding to the nearest whole number. Jamaal Charles is over his ankle injury and playing like a rock-solid RB1.
Even the much-maligned LeSean McCoy showed signs of a thaw last week, running for 149 yardson 22 carries.
At the same time, there are a few consensus first-round picks who are stuck in traction, though largely due to injury. There is just one underachieving player, non-Adrian Peterson division, for whom injury is not a mitigating factor. That makes Eddie Lacy the single most disappointing fantasy player through the first half of the season.
Lacy ranks 25th among running backs in fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues, with a minimum of three games played. While Forte, Thomas and Charles were able to pull out of their early-season struggles and begin performing like the first-round picks they were expected to be, that may never be the case for Lacy.
Over the last two weeks, Lacy has played 66 of Green Bay’s 134 snaps. Nominal backup James Starks has played on 65 of those snaps. The two backs are never on the field at the same time, so they have essentially split the snaps right down the middle for two weeks running. Lacy picked up 27 carries to Starks’ 20 in those two games, and scored twice while Starks did not find the end zone. Lacy is still the lead back in Green Bay, but Starks isn’t going anywhere. The latter may not have a ton of fantasy value himself, but he puts a low ceiling on Lacy’s.
How does the Lacy/Starks timeshare affect the Packers’ game with the Panthers this week and, more importantly for our purposes here, Lacy’s fantasy owners? There’s no doubt this is a great matchup. The Panthers have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs this year.
In the last four weeks alone, they’ve surrendered 15-plus-point games to Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Justin Forsett, Forte and Giovani Bernard. The Panthers, who were so dominant against the run last season, have allowed a huge 5.5 yards per carry this season, by far the most in the league. Lacy can certainly do damage in this spot. Unfortunately, if the last two weeks are any guide, he’s only going to get about 15 touches on Sunday. Even if Lacy had the job to himself, this offense revolves around Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, and the Panthers have been just as bad against the pass as they have against the run.
So what’s the verdict with Lacy? Given the matchup and the expected workload, he projects as an RB2 this week. Basically, it all comes down to whether or not Rodgers hogs all the touchdowns. If Lacy can hit paydirt, his owners will be happy with him. If he doesn’t, his yardage total won’t push him north of 10 fantasy points.
Don’t bank on Graham
Jimmy Graham was a surprise participant in New Orleans’ practice on Thursday, albeit in a limited fashion. He did the same on Friday, and is now listed as questionable for Sunday’s showdown with the Lions. On the plus side, the Saints and Lions kickoff in the first slate of games, so you’ll know whether or not Graham is playing before you have to set your lineups. On the downside, you’re not in Sean Payton’s head. Even if Graham suits up, this could just be nothing more than gamesmanship from the Saints’ head coach.
At the start of the week, it seemed as though Graham had no shot to play this week. In fact, the most likely outcome appeared to be that the start tight end would sit out two games and return in Week 9. The Saints’ offense is a whole lot easier to prepare for if you know Graham is sitting. If you’re the Saints, why not at least give off the appearance that he might suit up and make the opponent prepare for that possibility? That may very well be the case in this situation.
Even if Graham does play, chances are he’s going to be greatly limited. The shoulder sprain he suffered two weeks ago typically requires a few weeks of rest to get back to 100 percent. There are some rumblings coming out of New Orleans that he could be deployed strictly in the red zone, and that would be a potential nightmare for fantasy owners. Graham is, of course, one of the deadliest weapons inside the 20-yard-line. In that scenario, he could play a total of six snaps, catch two passes, have both go for touchdowns, and burn fantasy owners too skittish to trust him. Or, it could just be another line from the Saints’ coaching staff forcing the Lions to prepare for every contingency.
Remember, we’ve seen this sort of obfuscation from the Saints in the past. Last year, when Graham was dealing with plantar fasciitis, he practiced unexpected in a week he was expected to sit out. After being listed as questionable, he ended up being active. Fantasy owners rejoiced and plugged him into their lineups. He played just 18 snaps, and caught two scores.
If you’re a Graham owner, you certainly have another tight end on your roster. After all, the Saints were on a bye last week. Still, if he goes on Sunday, I just don’t see how you can bench him.
Andre Holmes – The Raiders gave every receiver on the roster a shot before finally turning to Holmes, which is just about the most Raiders thing possible. He played 92 percent of the team’s snaps two games ago and 81 percent last week, and instantly became the team’s best receiver. He has 20 targets in the last two weeks, catching nine of those passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinals have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to receivers, and while Demaryius Thomas and Peyton Manning inflated that number, the fact remains that a good receiver can exploit this secondary.
Branden Oliver – Believe it or not, Oliver has the seventh-most fantasy points per game among running backs who have played at least four games this season, and he has done that despite getting just one start. In the last two weeks, Oliver has 306 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. The Chiefs have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, but they’ve also surrendered 5.4 yards per carry. Oliver should have a big game on Sunday.
Zac Stacy – Yet again, the underwhelming Stacy should be out of your lineup. He got just eight carries last week, while Benny Cunningham got seven carries and scored on a one-yard run. Moreover, Tre Mason rushed five times and led the team with 40 yards. There’s simply no trusting Stacy at this point, especially against the Seahawks.
Odell Beckham Jr. – Beckham will undoubtedly have a larger role in the Giants’ offense in the wake of Victor Cruz’ season-ending knee injury, and that role will result in him being a worthy fantasy starter in certain weeks. This is not one of those weeks. The Cowboys have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to receivers this year. Just one receiver, Brian Quick, has reached double-digit points against them. Beckham is not an advisable play in Week 7.
Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens
• Ravens’ left tackle Eugene Monroe is doubtful with a knee injury. That shouldn’t sway you from starting Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith or Owen Daniels.
Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills
• No significant injuries
Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears
• Lamar Miller was a limited participant in Friday’s practice because of a knee issue, but he is listed as probable. He’s an RB1 for this week.
• The Bears should get Jermon Bushrod (knee) back this week. The left tackle is listed as probable. Lance Briggs and Chris Conte are out.
New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions
• Mark Ingram is listed as probable and will make his return from a hand injury. The Saints may ease him back in, and he’s not a strong play for this week. As discussed earlier, Jimmy Graham is questionable with his sprained shoulder. Keep an eye on this on Sunday morning.
• Calvin Johnson is also listed as questionable because of his ankle. He is not expected to play. Reggie Bush is probable and will get back on the field after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury.
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
• Jonathan Stewart (knee) will start for the Panthers this week. He’s a decent flex play against a Green Bay defense that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs. Greg Olsen (ankle) is probable. Kelvin Benjamin practiced Friday, but is officially listed as questionable after a concussion. Keep an eye on his status.
• Sam Shields (knee) and Datone Jones (ankle) have already been ruled out, and Tramon Williams is questionable with an ankle injury. It could be a huge day for Cam Newton.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
• A.J. Green is doubtful with his toe injury. He could be back for the Bengals next week.
Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars
• The Browns placed center Alex Mack on IR earlier this week, but left tackle Joe Thomas was a full participant in Friday’s practice.
• Toby Gerhart (foot) is out again this week. Storm Johnson and Denard Robinson will split carries. Johnson is an RB4 this week.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams
• Zac Stacy (ankle) participated fully in Friday’s practice, but is not a wise play against the Seahawks this week.
Tennessee Titans at Washington Redskins
• Jake Locker (hand) was limited practice on Friday. He’s not a wise play, but Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright would get a lift if Locker makes the start. Shonn Greene (hamstring) is out, making Bishop Sankey an RB2 for Week 7.
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
• Brandon Flowers, Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 coverage cornerback this year, is questionable with a groin injury. Dwight Freeney (knee) and Jason Verrett (shoulder) are also questionable. Could be a boost for Kansas City's offensive skill players.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
• Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back) was limited in Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable.
• Right tackle Doug Free (foot) is out for the Cowboys, but pay no attention to Tony Romo (back), DeMarco Murray (illness) or Dez Bryant (shoulder) being on the injury report. All are probable and will start.
Arizona Cardinals at Oakland Raiders
• Carson Palmer is probable and will make his second start since missing three games with a shoulder injury. Michael Floyd (groin) and Andre Ellington (foot) are also probable.
• Derek Carr (ankle) is probable and coming off the best game of his rookie season. He’s a mid-tier QB2 this week.
San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
• The 49ers will be without Patrick Willis (toe), but Perrish Cox (quadriceps) is probable.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers
• The official injury report for the Monday night game is not yet available. Andre Johnson (ankle) was a limited participant in practice, but there’s no risk of him sitting on Monday. Jadaveon Clowney (knee) is a game-time decision.
• On the other side, Ike Taylor (forearm) is still out, but Ryan Shazier (knee) could get back on the field after missing three games.