The Rise of James White, Kenny Britt Is Fool’s Gold, Buy Doug Martin, Fear for Jordan Howard
Webster’s Dictionary defines “introduction” as “a part of a book or treatise preliminary to the main portion.”
James White: This was what we’d been waiting for. Well, besides world peace and a cure for cancer. With Tom Brady back after an unexplained absence and the Patriots going back to their spread offense, White is now seeing the bulk of the playing time in New England’s backfield. On Sunday, he played 21 first-half snaps to LeGarrette Blount’s nine, with Blount coming in as the closer in the second half. Despite the shrinking workload, Blount is still the New England back to own since he’ll get steady work when the Pats are milking the clock (which will probably be often) and will also see the bulk of the goal line work. He’s more RB2 than RB1 though. Meanwhile, White is also going to be startable any time the Pats are less than 10-point favorites, at least until Dion Lewis returns (which is still up in the air).
Kendall Wright and Tajae Sharpe: The Titans are still figuring out what they want to do as far as their passing game goes (“like, do we want to score points or not score points?”). Wright remains a part-time player; he was only on the field for 22 snaps on Sunday. And yet, in those 22 snaps, he went for nine catches and 133 yards. Meanwhile, it appears Sharpe hit the rookie wall around Week 2. With the Titans opening things up a little bit more offensively, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for deep leaguers to stash Wright for now. He doesn’t have short-term value as long as he’s only on the field for a third of Tennessee’s plays, but if he overtakes Sharpe, Wright could put up solid numbers.
Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, Jesse James and Le’Veon Bell: Perhaps you played no role in Ben Roethlisberger’s meniscus being torn asunder, but if you own one of these guys you are going to suffer anyway. Brown and Bell are the only guys in Pittsburgh worth starting with Landry Jones under center.
Torrey Smith: If not for the Bills secondary deciding to take a play off in the second quarter, leading to an easy 53-yard TD, it would have been a 2-23-0 afternoon for Smith. That’s more in line with what he’s done this year, and what he’ll do going forward with Colin Kaepernick under center.
Golden Tate: I actually saw Tate’s photo on a milk carton two weeks ago. It was weird, because I had seen him multiple times on TV, running terrible routes and dropping passes that hit him in the hands. Tate re-emerged on Sunday in a big way, with eight grabs for 165 yards. I would actually lean towards playing him in the right situations going forward, and one of those situations is Week 7 against Washington. I’m assuming that if Josh Norman travels with anyone it will be Marvin Jones, which opens up some opportunities for Tate.
Jay Ajayi: I’ve been skeptical of Ajayi because he’s not an Adam Gase-type of back (and the Dolphins went out of their way to bring in Arian Foster and Kenyan Drake this offseason). Of course, after his 200-yard performance against a Steelers team that apparently had been visited by the Monstars, Ajayi is the lead dog among the cats in the Dolphins’ backfield stable. (Of horses.) But in the dead of the night, when you are at your most alone and vulnerable, I want you to close your eyes and ask yourself this: How often will the Dolphins be protecting a big lead this season? Then, and only then, will you understand that Ajayi is a high-risk RB2 from here on in.
Ty Montgomery: Ten catches are nice, but most of Montgomery’s playing time came at running back, as James Starks was out and Eddie Lacy was playing hurt. There’s a good chance Montgomery has a similar role in a short week Thursday night. After that, his role will shrink dramatically as Lacy gets healthier, Starks nears a return and newly acquired Knile Davis picks up the offense.
Jameis Winston: My feet are still planted firmly on the Jameis bandwagon, even after a disappointing showing against Carolina in his last game. The Bucs had a bye week to straighten things out with their passing game, and the schedule is just so, so soft from here on out.
Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon: The Ravens booked the Comfort Suites ballroom for their recommitment ceremony to the run game. And right now West is the “hot” hand. Really, it’s mostly been a matter of capitalizing on a couple of leaky run defenses. At some point either (a) the workload will catch up with West, or (b) the Ravens will realize he’s kind of a meh talent. My faith in Kenneth Dixon’s fantasy value is being tested right now, but as my pastor tells me, it will be rewarded in the end. (I go to a weird church.)
Rashad Jennings: He’s back, and better than… he was before he came back. Jennings figures to lead the Giants backfield in snaps and touches going forward, though their complete inability to run the ball against defenses daring them to run it caps his upside. He’s a flex spot streamer during bye weeks.
Jamaal Charles and Spencer Ware: On Monday, Andy Reid reiterated that Charles will be held back for the time being. And the way Ware is playing, there’s really no need for them to feel any urgency. Charles is still clearly the superior player, but this looks like a 50/50 time share for at least the next few weeks. Don’t be fooled by the numbers against a Raiders defense that does not have a linebacker capable of running then tackling; the K.C. guys are a couple of risky RB2s going forward. “The Risky RB2s” is also a great name for your fantasy football-themed doo-wop group, so you’re welcome.
Robert Woods: Even with Anthony Lynn magic lifting everyone in Buffalo’s offense, I’m still not buying their No. 1-by-default receiver as more than a deep-league streaming option. Part of it is because the Bills keep jumping out to leads, which is why Tyrod Taylor has attempted 30 passes in a game only once since Lynn stepped in as OC and saved all of Western New York. And part of it is because Woods isn’t all that good.
Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford: I worry about Jordan Howard. Is he eating well? Getting enough sleep? Is he making friends in his new home? Is he happy? Why doesn’t he write me more often? But mostly, I worry that Howard missed a huge opportunity to solidify his spot atop the Bears’ depth chart in advance of Langford’s return. The Bears couldn’t get much going on the ground with Howard on Sunday as they managed to let one slip away to the Jaguars. And Howard has continued to struggle in the passing game, as a pass protector and dropping passes as a receiver. Even worse, up next for the Bears are the Packers then the Vikings, both of whom would shut down the Chicago ground game even if Hephaestus, god of fire, metalworking and crafts himself, was lining up in the backfield. At the very least, Langford (who I’d expect to return after their Week-9 bye) should grab passing down duties when he returns. And if Howard and the Bears struggle to run it on the Packers and Vikings, as expected, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Langford grab a 40% share of early-down snaps. The schedule gets very soft again after the bye week (they don’t go to Minnesota until Week 17, when most fantasy seasons are presumably done), but Howard is a big risk as he’s faced with a diminished workload. The reward is still there, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sell high.
Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers: Quick note on how the internet works: I’m writing this on a Tuesday, but it will live in perpetuity on the world wide web past Oct. 18. At least until the singularity, at which point the machines will cut off our access to information in order to further incapacitate the human race. But that won’t be for another couple weeks at least. Anyway, on Monday, Martin sat out practice. I’d still expect him to get work in after Tuesday’s off day, but at the time of this writing I don’t know whether or not he’ll practice on Wednesday. If Martin does return this week (I think he will), Rodgers slides into the Charles Sims role (and is not worthy of a starting spot as long as Martin is in the lineup). Meanwhile, Martin is a big-time buy-low candidate if healthy. Tampa has an exceedingly easy schedule the rest of the way.
Ricardo Louis: Deep leaguers, you might want to take a look if you’re desperate for a streamer. Louis has separated himself from the other 12,000 late-round rookie receivers in Cleveland, Corey Coleman is still a couple weeks away from a return and Terrelle Pryor is now dealing with a hamstring injury.
Knile Davis: That loud, wailing siren you hear is signifying that there has been a skill position player traded during the NFL regular season. (Or that there’s an imminent, catastrophic storm headed your way. For the sake of keeping in light, let’s assume the former. But also, repent, just in case.) Davis actually becomes an interesting stash in deeper leagues. He has no value if Eddie Lacy stays healthy, or if James Starks returns to the lineup in November. And regardless, it will take Davis a few weeks to get acclimated to the new system. But as a no-nonsense slasher, in theory he can produce running behind a great offensive line. In the off chance he gets the opportunity, he’ll have significant fantasy value.
Matt Ryan: O.K., I get it, Kyle Shanahan is a warlock and Matt Ryan is the best quarterback in fantasy football right now. And it just gets easier with the Denver and Seattle trips in the rearview mirror.
Matt Forte and Bilal Powell: The Jets abandoned the run (well, they kind of abandoned the concept of moving the ball forward) on Monday night, and apparently Powell has carved out a role as the “we’re gonna do nothing but throw” back. I’m cautiously optimistic (I say that a lot) that Forte take the bulk of the snaps and touches the next few weeks, as the Jets figure to at least hang around in their next four games (vs. BAL, at CLE, at MIA, vs. LA).
Jack Doyle: With Dwayne Allen likely to miss a week or two, Doyle becomes a viable streaming option as he’ll likely see an increase in targets. Andrew Luck seems to have taken a shine to the young fella who is eight months younger than him. And the Colts’ struggles to block, and therefore throw the ball downfield like they want to, should lead to Doyle getting a few more opportunities underneath.
Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett: Let me be clear: When Theo Riddick is healthy, this is Theo Riddick’s backfield. Theo Riddick owns Detroit. Theo Riddick, Theo Riddick, Theo Riddick. However, if Riddick does miss a second straight game (my guess is he’ll be a game-time decision), I’d go Washington (if healthy), then Forsett, then Zenner if I needed a one-week streamer in Week 7. Then I’d eat an enormous bag of candy corn to try to make myself feel better. But then I’d just feel much, much worse.
Cole Beasley: I’m still ever-so-slightly skeptical about his red-zone effectiveness since the Packers were running out a bunch of practice squad corners on Sunday. But make no mistake: Beasley will have a growing role in the red zone as long as Dez Bryant is out. The Cowboys will always lean run-heavy near the goal line. But they have had Beasley on the field as the lone receiver in their heavy packages, and they’ll use him in obvious one-on-one situations. He’s very much startable while Dez is out.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith: This whole offense is kind of a car crash at the moment. Ram a running back into the backs of your offensive linemen or fire a pass into the ground? Continue to run offensive plays or save the time and effort by simply punting on first down? And now, start Fitz or Geno? It’s going to be Fitzpatrick for now. He’s been very bad, but not as catastrophically bad as his 5-to-11 TD/INT ratio would suggest (it’s being skewed by that one truly awful outing in K.C.). I don’t even know why I wrote this up. Unless you’re in a 27-team league, you’re not starting a Jets quarterback.
C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker: As I wrote last week, let’s tap the breaks on the Booker bandwagon. While he might earn more playing time, he’s not going to overtake Anderson any time soon. (Keep in mind that, despite all the “Booker outplayed him” nonsense from those who only read box scores, Anderson had the play of the night on Thursday called back due to a hold away from the play.) Not to mention, as we’ve seen the past two weeks, the Broncos aren’t going to consistently move the ball. Booker’s a nice option in dynasty leagues, but he’s really not much of an option as long as Anderson is healthy.
Hunter Henry: Good on you, Hunter Henry! Nice outing on Thursday night. However, it was more a result of the Broncos trying to guard him with a linebacker (something teams will do infrequently going forward) as opposed to the Chargers game-planning to get Henry more touches. The rookie is still a shaky play as long as Antonio Gates is healthy.
Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill: This backfield is getting weirder every week. Bernard continues to take the bulk of the snaps, which could be because of Hill’s lingering chest injury (though he wasn’t on the injury report last week). Hill still has a role, and I assume at some point he’ll reclaim goal line duties after the Bengals near-comical failures from the three-inch line in Foxboro. (In a bizarre twist, they put Bernard behind Domata Peko on a fourth-down play in a package I’m assuming they call “doomed to fail.”) For the second half of the year, I’d expect an increase in Hill’s role, and a decrease for Bernard.
Kenny Britt: In a way, he’s the beneficiary of low expectations. No opponent is sending extra help to cover Britt, and it’s allowed him to pull in 30 of his 40 targets while opponents send everyone toward the line of scrimmage to stop Todd Gurley. Last week’s two-TD game was a fluke; Britt’s absolute ceiling is the six-catch, 60-yard average he was putting up prior to last week. That’s not a bad ceiling, but it’s one of a fringe starter.
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