Replacing Peterson, Buy on Floyd and Russell, Sell on C.J. Anderson and Wallace
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this column the past couple weeks, it’s this: When writing a column in which you list 40 players of fantasy relevance, the counting of the names is the most difficult part. Forty is a lot to count to.
With that, I give you the latest Fantasy 40. Unless you are reading this in the future, in which case this is not the latest Fantasy 40, but rather an old Fantasy 40. So go read the new Fantasy 40…
Adrian Peterson, Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata: So you’re an Adrian Peterson owner wondering what to do now. Well, first of all... Wait, have you lost weight? No? Alright, maybe it’s just that I’m blinded by that enchanting musk of yours. You are really looking and smelling good. Keep it up. Anyway, about the Peterson thing: You’re kinda screwed. If I had to take either of those other Vikings guys, I’d go McKinnon since he’s the better player, and I’d guess he’ll get the majority of the work. But Asiata figures to take goal-line work and a lot of, if not all, third down snaps. So unless you’re in a four-team league and can go pick up Melvin Gordon, my advice is to abandon hope for awhile.
Mohamed Sanu: I was surprised by the Sanu buzz (can you feel it!) after Week 1. So surprised that I didn’t even bother writing about him. So now I will. Write about him, that is. He’s fine. Mohamed Sanu is a plodding, fungible possession receiver who will benefit from the triple teams Julio Jones faces. He’s in the same class as the 2015 edition of Jacob Tamme, or the 2014 edition of Harry Douglas. He’ll have three or four good games. Mostly he’ll be meh.
Jacoby Brissett: He’s a third-string rookie who is likely getting practice reps for the first time and will be facing a very good defense on a short week. So… like, don’t start him.
Michael Floyd: Buy low. The Cardinals very much want to get him involved. It will happen. Because at some point opponents are going to realize that Larry Fitzgerald should get more of their attention, because Larry Fitzgerald is like Benjamin Button in that he’s reverse aging. (Though, aside from that, Larry Fitzgerald and Benjamin Button have virtually nothing in common.)
Kirk Cousins: I don’t really have anything encouraging to tell you except for this: I think he’ll be fine. And as an added bonus, I think Washington will be in quite a few shootouts this year, and Cousins will throw it a lot. (Don’t worry, he’ll still have time to do other things, like eating, breathing, using the bathroom, spending time with his wife, etc.)
Quincy Enunwa: The most encouraging thing about Enunwa’s performance in Buffalo was that Ryan Fitzpatrick repeatedly targeted him when he was covered, and Enunwa rewarded his QB by making contested catches. And if Brandon Marshall misses time (as he might this weekend), you can put Enunwa in your starting lineup without feeling any real sense of shame. (His upside is still limited when Marshall and Eric Decker are healthy though.)
DeAngelo Williams: Le’Veon Bell returns in Week 4, but I will reapproriate one of the two pieces of advice I got from my father upon the birth of my son: Don’t drop him. (The second piece of advice was that, no matter how much time you invest into training him, a baby can not properly operate a pressure washer, so if you want your siding to look good you’re gonna have to find the time to do it yourself.) Bell remains injury-prone, and the Steelers are one of the best offenses for a plug-and-play back. But more than that, Williams is still just really good.
Matt Ryan: Ryan was living well in Oakland, torching a Raiders defense that seemingly can’t stop anyone and catching a couple breaks on deflected passes along the way, including a tipped pass that turned into a TD. After last year’s struggles, we’ll take it. Ryan is at least hanging around as a solid QB2 at the moment.
Alshon Jeffery:: His value slides if it’s Brian Hoyer instead of Jay Cutler under center. But the good news is that the Bears’ already shaky secondary has been ravaged by injuries, so they will likely fall behind early and often and be forced to go pass-heavy for the majority of games. Though I suppose some might consider that bad news, specifically the Bears, their fans, the injured players and their families.
Tyrod Taylor: Rex Ryan talked about the need to improve the passing game, and that’s all well and good. And they’ve certainly underused Sammy Watkins to this point. But I’m not sure Taylor will ever be more than a guy who can only do two things: (1) run around, and (2) throw a nice deep ball. I’m not sure he can become more than what he is right now.
Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Dexter McCluster: Woodhead is out for the year, opening up a ton of snaps in the San Diego backfield. I don’t think Gordon is capable of playing on passing downs, but looking at the depth chart, Andre Williams and Kenneth Farrow are basically clones of Gordon but worse. Like in that movie, Multiplicity. (What! You never saw Multiplicity! I didn’t either. I guess I just absorbed the gist at some point.) Dexter McCluster comes in off the street to be the penniless man’s Woodhead, but even if he proves to be half the player Woodhead is (so, like, 2-foot-9? Ha!), it’s going to be a few weeks before he has a good enough grasp of the playbook to cut into Gordon’s snaps in any meaningful way.
Fozzy Whittaker, Mike Tolbert and Cameron Artis-Payne: With Jonathan Stewart out a few weeks with the hammy, the Panthers are looking at a full-blown committee. Artis-Payne, inactive the first two weeks, is the closest match to Stewart’s skill set, and he looked good in limited action a year ago. Of course, if you’re a healthy scratch the first two weeks, you only offer so much upside. Tolbert figures to be a goal line option (behind Cam Newton). Whittaker offers some PPR value, but last week could very well be the only 100-yard game of his career. And his name is Fozzy, so that’s always a plus. (I had a dog named Fozzy. He was a good dog.)
Stefon Diggs: That was a beautiful thing on Sunday night. As long as Sam Bradford stays healthy, Diggs’ ascension should hold steady. (Yeah, I know that phrasing doesn’t make sense, but you know what I’m saying.)
Jimmy Graham: I am the last believer in Jimmy Graham. He’s healthy again, and at this point it’s just a matter of the Seahawks getting it together on the offensive line like they did midseason last year.
Sammie Coates: The hope was that he’d be the sequel to Martavis Bryant 2015. But Coates is more like Martavis Bryant 2014. He’ll run downfield and they’ll chuck three or four deep ones his way every week. Even after Markus Wheaton returns, expect Coates to give weekly performances ranging from one-catch/18 yards to three-catches/80 yards. So if you like to live dangerously, Coates is your guy. But if you like to live dangerously, you’re also probably not reading this column. You’re like, out there eating shards of glass while wrasslin’ crocodiles and stuff and you probably haven’t set your lineup since Week 8 of the 2012 season.
Corey Coleman: I think he’s really, really good. But with Cody Kessler moving in under center, I’m not sure I could start Coleman in Week 3 and live with myself.
Dwayne Washington: I’d guess Theo Riddick leads the Detroit backfield in touches while Ameer Abdullah is out. But if Abdullah is still out when bye weeks begin, or if you owned Adrian Peterson and Danny Woodhead, I think Washington will have an expanded role as the “running game” back for the Lions. Just keep in mind: Detroit goes heavy with no-huddle, meaning they don’t often substitute near the goal line even if they settle on Washington as their best short-yardage back.
Tyrell Williams: He’s big and fast (which is preferable to being small and slow) and he played 50 of 68 snaps on Sunday for a Chargers team that still figures to skew pass-heavy. I still prefer Dontrelle Inman in PPR formats, but Williams is worth a flier.
DeVante Parker: He got just as many targets as Jarvis Landry during the Dolphins’ rise-from-the-dead performance in Foxboro on Sunday. Landry will have more targets and catches, but Parker’s red-zone upside could easily make him a top-20 wideout from here on in.
Ezekiel Elliott: When they drafted him, it felt like a Jerry Jones-fueled let’s-draft-the-big-name-running-back-so-I-can-brag-about-it-when-he-runs-for-1500-yards-behind-our-offensive-line-(just-like-any-other-back-could-have)-and-plus-it-will-distract-from-the-various-poor-decisions-and-resulting-holes-that-litter-our-roster moment. So two fumbles aren’t going to cost Elliott his feature-back role.
Ryan Mathews: Hey, two touchdowns. Niiiiice. Of course, Mathews will continue to play behind Darren Sproles, and Philly has Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner carving out roles as well. So anytime you play Mathews as your FLEX, you’re basically crossing your fingers and praying for a touchdown.
Kenneth Dixon: If I were a despot, ruling a country with an iron fist, crushing dissidents with a brutal and public display of force in order to further consolidate power, and one of my goals was to mine my country for fantasy points, I would force everyone under my rule to pick up Kenneth Dixon and stash him on their bench. Dixon is probably out until Week 5 or so, but considering his talent, and considering the lack of talent through the rest of the Ravens’ RB depth chart, it shouldn’t be long before Dixon is their No. 1 back.
Coby Fleener: I never quite understood the preseason hype for Fleener considering the lack of goodity (it’s a word now) he showed through his Indy days. He’s a fringe TE1 as a starter in a very good passing offense, but it’s clear that he’s nowhere near earning Drew Brees’ trust after catching a Davante Adams-like three of his 12 targets through two games.
Jeremy Langford and Jordan Howard: The biggest culprit in Chicago’s struggles have been the predictable play-calling and weak O-line play, as Langford has been met in the backfield by multiple defenders on far too many plays. (And not just met, but tackled by those meeting him as well.) The fumble he lost in the third quarter on Monday night might be enough for the Bears to start thinking about a change for the sake of change, which is what this would be. But Langford’s playing time is in danger, and Howard set to pick up the slack.
Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake: Arian Foster is hurt for what I believe is the first time in his career (note to self: have team of unpaid interns fact-check this, and be sure to hurl insults in their direction in order to undermine their confidence and keep them in line). The short-term answer is probably Ajayi, who played 37 snaps to Drake’s 18 in Foxboro. But Ajayi is not only not an Adam Gase style of back (if it was socially acceptable, Gase would throw it 80 times per game), he’s a guy who was brought in by the last administration. Gase’s Dolphins spent a third-rounder on Drake, whose passing-game skills are exactly what Gase wants. It’s just a matter of Drake getting up to speed after missing most of the summer.
Russell Wilson: I’d buy low. As with Graham, it’s a matter of getting healthy and the offensive line improving their play, like they did a year ago.
Sterling Shepard: I want to be bullish on him, but with Odell Beckham Sr.’s kid being underused to this point, and Victor Cruz demanding a significant role, I’m not sure there’s enough room for Shepard to deliver consistent fantasy value.
Mike Wallace: Well, someone had to catch Joe Flacco’s passes. Were you going to do it? No. So Mike Wallace did. Keep in mind that Wallace’s three TDs are fluky, and he’s still behind Steve Smith Sr. and Dennis Pitta in the pecking order for targets. He’s a lottery ticket on a week-to-week basis.
Robert Turbin: He has emerged as the clear handcuff to Frank Gore. Remember a couple years ago when Ahmad Bradshaw was out and Boom Herron started six games for the Colts and only rushed for 273 yards, but added 31 catches for 227? If Gore gets hurt, that could easily be Turbin.
Chris Johnson: Like the monkey named George who was once captured in the jungle by a bizarrely attired man with incredibly poor judgment and then allowed to run amok in New York City with, apparently, no consequences for anyone involved, I will indeed be curious to see how David Johnson looks by midseason. Curious indeed. As good as he is, DJ (in this case, that’s short for “David Johnson”) was essentially kept on the shelf until December last season. How will he be feeling by Week 9 or so? CJ (short for “Chris Johnson”) waits in the wings. He was effective before breaking his leg last year, and I’d if DJ (again, that’s short for “David Johnson”) misses time in the second half of the season, I’d love to see what the veteran can do to tired defenses when he has relatively fresh legs.
Sam Bradford: It’s his team now. Bradford should be throwing it 35 times a game while Adrian Peterson is out, and he’s found a new best friend in Stefon Diggs. That’s a recipe for a pretty nice streaming option.
C.J. Anderson: Anderson has never been a guy whose been effective for 16 games, and on top of that opponents figure to catch on to the Broncos’ smoke-and-mirrors offense. I’d sell high.
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