Mariota Magic, Prosise Is King, Alshon Jeffery Is Ruined
“Hey, how did you come up with the idea for the Fantasy 40 column?”
That’s a question I’ve been asked never because I’m not important enough to have strangers voluntarily interact with me. But just in case anyone ever wonders, here’s the story.
It was actually Peter King’s idea, sorta. Back in June, at The MMQB Summit, Peter said, “You should do a column called ’40 Names.’”
I said, “What do you mean, like a fantasy football thing?”
He said, “Nah. Nah. Just a weekly list of good names. Strong names. American names. Like, if I were doing it, it would be names like Ira, Helene, Yvette, Kevin.”
I said, “I think you’re onto something, let me sleep on it.”
I did, but the next morning I decided the fantasy football thing was the way to go.
I told Peter, to which he replied, “What? Oh, that thing we were talking about. Yeah, do whatever you want.”
And thus, Fantasy 40 was born. True story. Here’s this week’s people of fantasy football…
Doug Baldwin: As we saw Sunday night, opposing defensive backs now flock to Jimmy Graham the way tween girls flock to… whomever is popular with kids these days. David Lee Roth? The point is, Baldwin is now seeing a ton of single coverage out of the slot with little safety help coming his way. He has outstanding chemistry with Russell Wilson and, while he won’t match the 47-724-12 he put up in the second half of last season, I think he is firmly a WR1 going forward.
Jared Goff: Tough news for those of you trusting Case Keenum would take your fantasy team to the promised land in 2016: Keenum has been benched. Also, your fantasy team is 1-9. As for Goff, he’s a rookie QB playing behind one of football’s worst offensive lines and with football’s worst group of receivers and tight ends. See what’s happening to Carson Wentz with a crappy but still-better-than-the-Rams supporting case in Philly?
Ladarius Green: He’s the guy who was supposed to do the thing but then had that stuff happen over the summer. Well, now Green is back in the lineup. The Steelers played Jesse James 52 snaps to Green’s 12 on Sunday, but they did feature Green a number of times. This could be headed toward a 50/50 time share over the next couple of weeks, and with his red-zone potential Green is an interesting stash for the playoffs if you’ve been hurting at tight end.
Randall Cobb: It’s that time already? O.K., here goes my weekly excuse for why Cobb disappointed. He played only 54 of Green Bay’s 78 snaps on Sunday, possibly because he’s still recovering from that hammy and the game was out of reach after the Packers forgot to tackle for the first 25 minutes. I still would argue (increasingly unsuccessfully, perhaps) that, if 100% healthy, Cobb is the best weapon the Packers have since Jordy Nelson is not quite Jordy Nelson yet.
Doug Martin: There ya go. Put him back in your lineup forever.
Marcus Mariota: I still think he will be a victim of game flow some weeks, as the Titans want to run, run, run. You can’t bank on double-digit yards-per-attempt every week (even though Mariota has accomplished that in three of the last five). Still, the floor is high, and the Titans have put together some neat red zone play designs in the passing game (they’ve scored a TD on 26 of their 34 red zone trips, a 76.5 percent rate that has them on pace to be the most efficient red-zone team since the Priest Holmes 2003 Chiefs). Those TD opportunities lead to consistency, and consistency at quarterback is a must in fantasy football. Consider Mariota a top-10 QB going forward.
Kenneth Dixon and Terrence West: Dixon keeps gaining on West, but I don’t think a changing of the guard is imminent. Dixon is the superior talent, but West had enough big days against bad defenses to earn a longer leash than he should have ever had. Dixon is at least a solid RB2/FLEX play in PPR leagues, but I’m not sure he becomes more than that in 2016.
Bryce Petty and people who play for the Jets: Bryce Petty isn’t ready to play in the NFL. The fact that they trotted him out there in a regular season game to humiliate himself amounts to malpractice that would lead to every decision maker in that building losing their footballing license if there were such a thing as a footballing license. I’m not necessarily stumping for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s been terrible all year. He’s been mopey at times. His beard, which was cool last year when he was winning, is now dumb because he’s losing. But the fact is: Fitzpatrick is the only human being under contract with the Jets who is, at this moment, a viable NFL quarterback. If Petty starts another game, everyone on the roster can be downgraded.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry: Henry is still absolutely worth rostering as, if there is a Murray injury, he’d become a top-12 RB. But Murray looked good and, more importantly, at or close to 100% healthy on Sunday. It looks like being limited to 237 touches in Philly last year might have done him some good.
James Starks and Ty Montgomery: The most stunning development worldwide over the past week was that Starks played 55 of 78 snaps in his first game back while Montgomery played only 22. I don’t know how this will play out long-term because the Packers are so crappy at the moment, but Starks can be started in Week 11. Montgomery can not.
Dion Lewis: He’s back but was inactive on Sunday night. I’m still not sure he overtakes James White in 2016, and I think Sunday night’s developments support that hypothesis.
Alshon Jeffery: I’m not angry with you, Alshon. I’m just disappointed.
You can drop Jeffery if you really want. That matchup at Tampa, a defense that plays a Cover-3 base with middling talent in the secondary and should get destroyed by big receivers like Jeffery, was the best one on Jeffery’s schedule. The fact that he went 4-47-0, with three of those catches coming in the game’s first eight minutes, is the biggest insult of all. He’s eligible to return Week 15, though who knows what kind of role he’ll be returning to. So you might be going Week 16 or bust if you hold onto him.
Zach Miller and Cameron Meredith: With Jeffery out, Miller moves back into fringe TE1 territory while Meredith goes from imminently droppable (six targets and three catches over the last three games, one of which was the deflected Hail Mary at the end of the first half on Sunday) to at least interesting enough to hang onto in a wait-and-see approach.
Ryan Tannehill: Nice outing for Tannehill in San Diego, as he has grown nicely into a game manager role for the Fins. Just remember, this is still Jay Ajayi’s world, and the Chargers’ banged-up secondary made Week 10 a pretty tasty matchup for Tannehill. He’s a streaming option only going forward.
Jay Cutler: He did everything but literally crap his pants on Sunday. And now Alshon Jeffery is suspended, leaving the Bears with zero starting-caliber wide receivers on the roster. You can no longer touch Jay Cutler, physically, emotionally, or in fantasy leagues.
C.J. Prosise, Chrsitine Michael and Thomas Rawls: It’s Prosise’s world for now, though I would expect Rawls (potentially back this week) and Michael to vulture TDs. Prosise is a starter in all formats and a potential stud in PPR leagues. Michael may have run out of gas and I think I’d lean Rawls going forward as a fringe RB2 in standard leagues, though we could learn a lot about that on Sunday. (Update: Holy crap, like minutes after I published this Michael got released. I can only assume it was in response to what I wrote.)
DeVante Parker: It was nice to see his first 100-yard game in nearly two months, but I’m not sure Parker has another one of those days in his pocket. This is an Ajayi-based offense, and Parker won’t see many matchups as good as the one he had against the shorthanded Chargers.
Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles: To be honest, that game plan they used against the Falcons made a lot more sense than the cute stuff they’ve been doing with Carson Wentz (as great as Wentz has been and will be, their receivers are… how to put this nicely… a pile of dog doo). Sproles played only 31 of the 79 offensive snaps, with Mathews (26 snaps, 19 carries) and Smallwood (19, 13) leading the way on a day heavy with power running. Sproles is still useable in PPR leagues, Mathews in standard leagues, and Smallwood is worth keeping in mind now that he’s back in Doug Pederson’s good graces, in the event of a Mathews injury.
Michael Floyd and J.J. Nelson: The Cardinals’ receiving corps continues to be “Larry Fitzgerald and The Rest,” but Floyd showed signs of life after a string of injury-plagued and disastrously bad outings. Apologies for the arbitrary beginning and end points, but Floyd had 23 catches for 387 yards in four December games last year. He’s once again becoming a useable high-risk, high-reward late-season option. As for Nelson, he seemed to be shaving points during his second career start. He should slide back to a situational deep threat role going forward.
Sammy Watkins: If you’ve got some room to stash, why not…
Quinton Patton and Jeremy Kerley: The Niners benefited from some overeager Cardinals DBs on Sunday, but Kerley and Patton have both shown good enough chemistry with Colin Kaepernick to be worthy streaming options in PPR leagues.
Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry: Gates and Philip Rivers are clicking again, and there’s no doubt that Gates is the No. 1 and Henry the No. 2 barring another injury for the vet.
Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins: Perkins was poised to run away with the No. 1 job on Monday night, and he wasn’t necessarily bad. But Jennings had far and away his best game of the season (thanks in large part to the Giants showing a little more creativity with their blocking schemes). It’s only a matter of time before Perkins overtakes him, but Jennings might have bought himself another week or two.
Tajae Sharpe: He’s still not useable, but he did score his first career touchdown on Sunday, so good for him. (He also picked up the awesomest celebration penalty of the year, for “going to the ground during a celebration.”)
Robert Griffin III: He might get a chance to start the Browns’ last couple games. I’m not sure he’s worth using at home against the Bengals in Week 14 or at Buffalo in Week 15, but man, if you start him in your league championship game Week 16, Christmas Eve at home against the Chargers, take a screen shot of your lineup and send it to me, and I will nod my head as a sign of respect.
Sammie Coates: He couldn’t really catch very well to begin with, and it turns out he’s had two broken fingers. So that explains how he’s had one catch on 11 targets over the past four weeks.
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