Fake Football, Real Questions (October 5th Edition)
October 5, 2013 | Jeff
More annoying platoon mate: Daniel Thomas for Lamar Miller owners or The Law Firm for Giovanni Bernard owners?
It’s closing time. You’re having a blast, chatting up a really cute girl – way out of your league. As you’re getting ready to leave, she touches your arm and gives you the eyes. The cues are unmistakeable. You grab her by the waist, hail a cab, and count yourself lucky. Suddenly, in a cruel twist of fate, the spell is broken by some behemoth who clumsily plods out of the pizza place next door, dripping with marinara sauce and loneliness. Dear God. It’s the chubby, man hating friend she came out with tonight…and in between bites of meatball parm, she’s successfully managed to talk your girl out of leaving with you. By the time you’re halfway home, the bewilderment and rage have subsided. You’re left to play out all the scenarios in your head that could have prevented this disastrous near miss. For instance, that land ridden Leviathan could have suffered a high ankle sprain stepping out of the pizzeria. She could have fumbled her drink all over her friends hours earlier, landing her in the dog house, and sending her home early. Alas, there she stood, blocking both the early morning sun and your path to glory. Now imagine this wasn’t just a onetime occurrence. Even though it defies all logic, you find yourself in precisely the same scenario for four consecutive weekends. This is the 2013 Lamar Miller experience.
I think Thomas is the more annoying of the two. Fantasy owners knew coming in that Green-Ellis would get carries in Cincinnati, but most of us assumed the Dolphins had sense enough to limit Thomas’ touches. I’m still confident Bernard will eventually be the primary back for the Bengals, but I don’t think any of us know exactly what to expect in Miami over the remainder of the season.
I own more shares of Lamar Miller than Giovanni Bernard personally, so naturally I am going to select Daniel Thomas. The thing with Thomas is that he isn’t better than Miller in any area. He failed on a few short yardage situations against New Orleans on Monday Night Football last week, where Miller scored on his only carry inside the 10 yard line. Even the most optimistic Dolphins fans are questioning Joe Philbin’s use of his running backs. I expect Miller to handle the majority of the work as early as next week in a tough match-up against Baltimore. Bernard has looked absolutely electric this year and is hands down the better back over Green-Ellis. Bernard packs a punch when he runs, but his small physical stature leaves him open to losing out on the goal line touches. Not to mention that Green-Ellis is making more money than Daniel Thomas, so the Bengals need to get some return on investment.
Thomas. I don’t really see Law Firm as a threat anymore. He gets the early work, but Cincy still makes a point of getting Gio involved where he can excel – in the red-zone. Ironic, but true. On the flip-side, Miller’s groove always seems to get messed up by Thomas, and the biggest thing with Miami is they still can’t just go with the guy. They need to bite the bullet and admit they have a feature back on their team.
Buy one, sell one, hold one: Maurice Jones-Drew, David Wilson, Stevan Ridley
All of these guys have left dirty bed sheets in their wakes through the season’s first month, but I’m not about to stop preaching buy low on David Wilson now that the Eagles are on deck and Da’Rel Scott’s looking for work. Amazingly, Scott had played 125 snaps to Wilson’s 103 through 4 games. If Scott’s substantial hurry-up/passing down role is somehow earmarked for Brandon Jacobs instead of Wilson (who PFF grades as the 4th most elusive running back in football thus far), I’ll feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Speaking of Jacobim Mugatu, Maurice Jones Drew has been straight up Derelicte this year, running for a Troy Hambrickian 2.4 YPC. It would take a hell of a lot of volume to make fantasy points at that rate, and MJD isn’t going to get much run with the Jags trailing by 20 plus at halftime every week. With the trade of OT Eugene Monroe (their best offensive player) to the Ravens, the Jags have thrown a bag of M-80’s on top of what was already a brightly blazing dumpster fire season. Sell Jones-Drew for anything you can get while someone in your league still associates his name with fantasy points. I’m reluctant to hold Ridley given his mysterious leg injury and the timeshare that’s developed in New England, but he’s still the clear choice over Jones-Drew. Ridley has way more tread on his tires, plays in a high yield offense (that will only get more potent with the returns of Amendola and Gronk), and he should work his way into more carries, provided he gets healthy in the next week or two. Of course, if LaGarrette Blount blows up in his absence at Cinci, you have my blessings to hit the panic button, and sell off Ridley for whatever you can get.
Wow… Can you really “sell” any of these guys now, given the reduced price tag? I’ll “sell” MJD because I avoided him in drafts and there seems to be a faction of people that still like him. I’ll “hold” Ridley because he is still the best back in New England, and I think that will show over the course of the season. I continue (foolishly?) to “buy” Wilson. The price tag has to be relatively low given the talent that is still there. I think that talent ultimately wins out and Wilson will be a fantasy asset before the end of the season.
I’m buying David Wilson, selling Stevan Ridley, and holding Maurice Jones Drew. I am still a believer in Wilson, even though many have jumped off the bandwagon. Jacobs looks done in the NFL and Da’Rell Scott is literally done in the NFL (as of right now). Scott handled a majority of the passing game snaps so I would expect Wilson to actually rack up a few catches this week against Philadelphia. Wilson has been regaining his confidence in the last few weeks as he has looked more explosive, hitting holes with authority. Please prove me right David! The reason I would hold Jones-Drew is in case he actually does get traded. The Jaguars offense is holding MJD back. Jones-Drew has a good match-up against the Rams this week, so I would give him one more chance. I’m not a believer in Stevan Ridley. He lost the confidence of Belichick in week 1 with a costly fumble, and has yet to regain his feature role in the Patriots offense. The main difference is that Wilson and Jones-Drew seem to be getting a majority of the touches compared to Ridley being stuck in a full blown running back by committee. Sell and see what you can get. If you can still land a Pierre Garcon or Chris Johnson type, I would pull the trigger.
Give us one largely unowned player that you are sneaking onto your rosters everywhere you have the room.
Khiry Robinson carving out a role in the Saints backfield is sort of intriguing. We’re talking about a guy who’s still only 1% owned, fresh off a game in which he saw three times as many carries as any other Saints RB. Sure, the majority of Robinson’s carries came after the outcome of the Saints-Dolphins game had already been decided, but he was mixed in during the first half as well. Considering Robinson’s increased workload came on the heels of an impressive 4 carry, 38 yard audition late in the Saints week 3 blowout of the Cardinals, it may just be time to pay attention. The undrafted rookie free agent made the Saints with an impressive preseason that checks out when you take a look under the hood. He led the NFL’s fake season in receptions for a RB, missed tackles forced on both runs and receptions, and PFF’s elusive rating (among backs who had at least 50% of their team’s attempts). Judge for yourself whether the West Texas A&M product passes the eyeball test. The Saints are a pass first team with a crowded backfield, but you can do worse for the end of your roster than a RB who may already be the lead runner on a high powered offense.
I’ve added Mike Goodson in several leagues since he’s been reinstated. He returns to the Jets backfield this week after a four-game suspension to start the season. With Chris Ivory already battling injuries and Bilal Powell better served in a change-of-pace roll, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Goodson leading New York in carries in the second half of 2013. I don’t think he’ll be a world beater even with those carries, but there will be some fantasy value.
He may not be largely unowned, but Danny Woodhead is still out there in 33% of Yahoo leagues, and that needs to change, especially in PPR formats. How can you not root for this guy? He has serious physical limitations, but he is the definition of a true “football player.” Woodhead has been a huge part in the Phillip Rivers renaissance this year. He is filling the Darren Sproles role that Rivers has been missing the last two seasons. Ryan Matthews has surprisingly ran really well so far, but he is stuck in a 2 down role. In the last two weeks alone, Woodhead has totaled 86 total yards in each game. He ranks as a top 20 PPR back, and was severely underrated in PPR leagues coming into this year. He has caught 5 passes or more in three straight games now! Woodhead’s value takes a hit in standard leagues, but I still see him as a great “flex” play now that bye weeks are starting to hit lineups.
Colin Kaepernick “bounced back” against the Rams…to the tune of an Alex Smith stat line (167 passing yards, 2 TD’s, 11 rushing yards). How concerned are you about Kaepernick’s production? Where do you rank him among QB’s for the duration of the season?
I’m afraid Kaepernick owners need to accept the fact that his stat line will resemble week 4 more often than not. Even in his memorable rookie campaign, Kap exceeded 250 passing yards just once in 8 regular season starts. Aside from rushing yards, Kaepernick was reliant on big plays down the field to make his fantasy points, as the Niners limited his passing attempts in a ball control offense. Those chunk plays haven’t been there for him this year, primarily because of struggles with accuracy. He ranks 23rd among starting QBs in PFF’s Accuracy Percentage (a better judge of a QB’s accuracy than completion percentage because it accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball). More concerning for fantasy owners is that he’s connected on only 4 of his 16 passes targeted more than 20 yards down the field. Last year, he completed 19 of 33 such passes, for a better percentage than any QB in the league. The downward trend can probably be attributed to defenses adjusting their game plan out of respect for Kaepernick’s arm (he saw a ton of stacked fronts last year designed to stop Frank Gore), and a complete lack of quality pass catchers to throw to on the outside. He’s talented enough to make adjustments, but at a 5th round preseason price tag, it’s more likely he goes down as a bust. If he finishes better than QB13, I’d be mildly surprised at this point.
As someone who ended up with Kaepernick in multiple leagues this year, I’m very concerned. I thought his “bounce back” game against St. Louis highlighted his flaws as much as anything else. He was only seeing half the field. He was missing open guys because his progressions were slow, or because he locked onto a single receiver. I think the hope for us Kaep owners is that he still has favorable match-ups on the schedule and the 49ers have other match-ups in which they will need him to put up good numbers to win. He’s a low-end QB1 for me right now, but don’t hesitate to bench him for the time being, especially if you have someone like Mike Vick.
Kaepernick to the naked eye is way better than his statistics would prove. His mobility is second to none, but teams have continued to keep a “spy” on him to prevent his patented long runs. What hurts Kaepernick is that his receivers are some of the worst in the league. Vernon Davis is an athletic specimen, but he is banged up. Boldin has to push off or win 50/50 balls to haul in receptions and Jonathan Baldwin, Kyle Williams, and Quinton Patton would not see playing time on many NFL teams. Man, does this guy need a healthy Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick is due for better days ahead, but I would not have confidence starting him over guys like Tony Romo, Michael Vick, or Phillip Rivers. He is a low end QB1-high end QB2 at this stage.