The Giants’ Soon-To-Be Lead Back, Eli Rogers’ Emergence, Doug Martin Lives
I figured that because of the election, no one is going to read this week’s column. So I made it especially profane. We’ll see if it got past the censors, but just in case, you must be 40 years or older, or accompanied by someone 40 years or older, to read this week’s Fantasy 40...
Sam Bradford and Stefon Diggs: The Vikings were better offensively in Pat Shurmur’s Minnesota OC debut on Sunday. Perhaps merely “better” in the same way that watching Ravens-Browns on Thursday Night Football will be “better” than having your eye socket caved in by a sock full of pennies, but still... Bradford, who still took a beating, was getting the ball out quicker to go along with a little more misdirection overall. I’m not sure this offense (or any offense with an offensive line this overwhelmingly bad) will ever move the ball with consistency, but Shurmur’s approach plays in Diggs’ favor. He’s the best catch-and-run threat on this roster, and Bradford targeted him 14 times against the Lions.
Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates: Rogers was a healthy scratch in Week 7 for undisclosed disciplinary reasons (considering the recent run of celebratory dessert-related suspensions across the league, my theory is that he didn’t show up to enjoy the team’s traditional Columbus Day flan—but to be clear, I have not been able to get confirmation on that). Now, it looks like Rogers has settled in as the John Oates to Antonio Brown’s Daryl Hall. He’s not a big red zone weapon, but PPR leaguers can feel good about him. As for Coates, he’s back to more of a boom-or-bust deep threat-only.
Roger Lewis Jr.: He was an Ohio State type of talent who ended up at Bowling Green, so it’s not necessarily surprising that he has earned a bit role as an undrafted rookie. The physical tools are there, and he’s a name to keep in mind for two or three years down the line when he could be a big-play complement to Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard.
Antonio Gates: Last week, I answered every question posed to me with “Antonio Gates.” If you reached out to me on Twitter or Facebook looking for a tight end, I told you “Antonio Gates.” If you needed to decide between an injured Ben Roethlisberger and Nick Foles, I told you “Antonio Gates.” When my dentist asked me if I had indeed consumed an entire 11-ounce bad of Brach’s candy corn during my four minutes in the waiting room, I told her “Antonio Gates.” Gates is still a Philip Rivers favorite, he’s healthier and capable of playing more snaps, and the Chargers need him to play on an every-down basis with Hunter Henry banged up. Gates is an every-week starter. (Until he gets hurt again.)
Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings: My podcast partner and third-grade P.E. teacher Andy Benoit actually had a spot-on breakdown of the Giants’ offense including their moribund rushing attack, so for homework this week read it and write a comprehensive report, no fewer than six pages double-spaced. And remember, this assignment is one-third of your final grade. Perkins played 22 snaps to Jennings’ 37 and each had 11 carries and three catches. I would expect Perkins to keep trending up in playing time, though it’s clear both will have roles going forward. The problem is that, while Perkins is a little more explosive and a little more creative than Jennings, this is a predictable rushing attack with a mediocre-at-best line clearing the way. Perkins is worth adding just about anywhere, but I can’t imagine him being more than a low-end RB2 as the Giants’ starter.
Aaron Rodgers: Much like that moment when your buddy pukes on your wife’s shoes (thanks for ruining that christening, Dave), the party might be just about over. I’ve hammered home Rodgers’ dispiriting home/road splits in the past, and at this point the Packers have only three home games left. But just as worrisome is the fact that it was the same ol’ problems for the receiving corps on Sunday, despite the fact that they were facing one of the worst secondaries in football. They won’t see a weaker group of cover men this season than what the Colts ran out. So I’ll continue to recommend Rodgers as a sell-high candidate. In fact, I’ll do so right now: I hereby recommend Rodgers as a sell-high candidate.
Doug Martin: Lots of Martin questions last week, and I’ve been encouraging everyone to hang onto him (or pick him up, if he’s on your waiver wire). If the Bucs haven’t put him on IR yet I take that to mean they still expect him back, and the Bucs’ remaining schedule is as soft as a pillow stuffed kittens atop a pile of marshmallows. And yesterday came word that Dirk Koetter is hoping to have Martin back in some capacity this week. I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s even more reason for Martin owners to hold steady and stay strong.
Eli Manning: Everything is a struggle for this offense, as they can’t run it and don’t pass protect. They are at least starting to show some creativity with Odell Beckham, which is good in that it leads to things like “touchdowns.” But two of Eli’s four TD passes on Sunday came on account of short fields. I’m not ready to claim he’s more than a QB2 going forward.
Ronnie Hillman: At some point, the Vikings are going to have to move past Matt Asiata. It’s nice that they “trust” him, but it’s also important to have a running back who gains more than a yard-and-a-half at a time. The Vikings need to start getting their backs out in space to make up for their horror show offensive line, and that’s Hillman and Jerrick McKinnon. I do think McKinnon eventually rises to the top of the depth chart. But Hillman is worth a speculative add in deep leagues; he has enough big-play ability to potentially provide a winning lottery ticket late-season.
Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon: For football’s saddest backfield—how can two guys this good play this poorly this often—Sunday was something of a bright spot (yes, a game in which Ivory might have cost them the game with a goal line fumble qualifies as a bright spot for the 2016 Jaguars). It looks like these two have settled into the roles they were expected to play coming into the season, Ivory taking a slight majority on “running downs,” including goal line, and Yeldon taking a portion of running downs as well as all passing downs. And, encouragingly, Nathaniel Hackett went heavy with the ground game, mercifully taking the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Ivory can be used as an RB2 in standard leagues, Yeldon in PPR leagues.
Jason Witten: It won’t get any better than what he did Sunday against a Browns defense that seemed to be lining up with six players, but the chemistry with Dak Prescott is there. Witten is firmly in the TE1 class.
Russell Wilson: He looked better on Monday night. Perhaps it was the new haircut (way to tighten it up on the sides, Russ). Perhaps it was a healthier knee allowing him to move better. He’s not going to match last year’s second half (too many teams have seen and adjusted to Seattle’s spread, quick-strike passing attack), but he’s a potential top-five QB from here on in.
Todd Gurley: Lots of folks asking if they should trade Todd Gurley, and sure you should, his quarterback stinks, his offensive line stinks. But you’re also trading him when his value is at its lowest possible point. So have fun with that.
Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright: I get why Matthews is on the field all the time (he can block, and he has a nice rapport with Marcus Mariota). And since he’s on the field for just about every snap and isn’t Tajae Sharpe, Matthews is useable as a high-floor fantasy option every week. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why Wright isn’t playing ahead of Sharpe. Wright is this unit’s most dynamic player, and the at some point they’re going to have to find more snaps for him. Until then, he’s a high-risk streaming option.
Randall Cobb and Davante Adams: Cobb should be at or near full strength by Sunday, and going forward I’d expect him to emerge as at least a 1A to Jordy Nelson in the Packers’ passing game. Green Bay has all the same offensive problems they’ve had for the past two years; their receivers don’t create separation. Cobb is the most capable of beating man coverage. Adams, on the other hand, just faced a string of practice squad-caliber corners, and it will only get tougher from here on in. He’s consistently left in single coverage, which means he could continue to see eight-plus targets every week. But the days of converting those into more than 50 yards could be over.
Tyler Lockett: He finally looked healthy on Monday night, and the Seahawks showed they are willing to ramp up the passing game. Lockett is still option No. 3 at best behind Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham (and I wouldn’t be surprised if C.J. Prosise starts eating up targets as well), but Lockett is worth hanging onto. He’s the kind of guy the Seahawks could start manufacturing touches for. Sorry, shouldn’t have ended that sentence with a preposition. He’s the kind of guy for whom the Seahawks could start manufacturing touches.
Ben Roethlisberger: I’m working on a theory about Roethlisberger’s struggles in Baltimore, and it mostly has to do with the gravitational pull of the moon. But the main takeaway is this: Roethlisberger always has those types of games in Baltimore, and we always act shocked when he does. Assuming the knee gets better over the coming weeks, I think he’s fine going forward. A high-end QB1 any time the Steelers are playing at home, and a low-end QB1 when they’re on the road.
Kenneth Farrow: In case Melvin Gordon steps into an open elevator shaft, Farrow has emerged as the clear No. 2 back in San Diego, a team with Philip Rivers and therefore a very good offense.
Colin Kaepernick: He threw for 398 on Sunday, but my research shows that the Saints do not appear on the 49ers’ schedule again. Also, with the trade deadline having already passed, there’s now zero chance a different organization could make a series of trades with New Orleans to reassemble that Saints defense on a different team. These are disappointing developments in regards to Kaepernick’s fantasy value.
Rob Kelley and Matt Jones: Kelley has officially overtaken Jones as Washington’s “running” running back. Kelley is a fairly middling talent, but does run hard and gets what’s blocked for him. More importantly, he’s not constantly fumbling. I’m not sure this version of the depth chart holds, but Jones is simply a low-reward hold in deeper leagues at this point.
Austin Hooper: A middling talent who has delivered a couple of middling performances when given an expanded role in a very good offense, Hooper is a fringe TE1 as long as Jacob Tamme is out.
Dominique Jones: He had three catches and a touchdown for Miami on Sunday. I am not ashamed to say I had no idea who this was until then. Jones is 29 years old. He went to Shepherd College, where I presume he majored in herding sheep. (Ha! That’s a pretty good one, right?) And he now has nine catches in his NFL career.
Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington: Everyone is healthy again in the Lions’ backfield, and Sunday served as a reminder that nothing has changed. Riddick played two-thirds of the snaps, in large part because there’s not much separation between Washington and him as runners, and Riddick remains far more valuable in the passing game. And since the Lions operate primarily out of the no-huddle, Riddick often will stay on the field in the red zone, where the Lions prefer to throw it anyway.
Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace: Smith returned to play a nearly full workload on Sunday (58 of 70 snaps), and while Wallace was the fantasy headliner thanks to a 95-yard TD catch, there’s little doubt Smith is the No. 1 receiver in Baltimore going forward. Wallace still has a role (he fell ill on Sunday and was limited to 35 snaps), but it will be more as a complementary deep threat while Smith is healthy. Wallace is close to Smith in standard leagues, both WR2/FLEX types, while Smith should emerge as a steady WR2 in PPR leagues down the stretch.
Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise: Well that was unexpected. The Seahawks went pass-heavy on Monday night, opting for Prosise’s superior receiving skills (Prosise had 26 snaps to Michael’s 18). I wouldn’t start penning Michael’s eulogy just yet, mostly because that’s unnecessarily dark, but also because I think the Seahawks will have some weeks where they can jump out early and lean on the power running game. But Michael has a tenuous grasp on RB2 value, and that’s just because he’ll retain that red-zone role. Prosise is definitely startable in PPR leagues.
Cody Kessler, Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor: The Browns offense was barely on the field on Sunday, mostly because the defense was busy giving up 12 consecutive eight-yard gains (or lining up in the neutral zone). Kessler isn’t going to light the world on fire, and ceilings are low for everyone in Cleveland. But the good news is that Kessler used Coleman and Pryor enough that both should be able to retain at least WR2 value down the stretch in an offense that figures to have to throw a lot.
Bryce Treggs: I wouldn’t be surprised if Treggs overtook the consistently awful Nelson Agholor down the stretch this year, but it’s hard to imagine being able to trust a pure deep threat on a team needing to manufacture offense with smoke and mirrors.
Mark Ingram: It was essentially a 50/50 timeshare with Tim Hightower on Sunday, which was really the best news possible for Ingram owners (well, that and the 171 yards and two TDs). It shouldn’t be long before Ingram is the clear lead back in New Orleans again; keep starting him.
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