THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 11
November 15, 2016 | Scott Cedar
It was a weird week in the NFL. Brock Osweiler threw for 99 yards and won. The Rams didn’t score a touchdown and won (again). And weirdest of all, we got vintage NFL with good, watchable games all weekend long. Ignoring my wife and kids all of Sunday was actually worth it this week.
Unfortunately, none of that goodness carried over to the waiver wire, which is back to slim pickings. But as making good of a bad situation is an increasingly valuable skill, let’s dive in. As always, the focus is on players owned in under 40% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues, ranked roughly in order of preference.
PAY THE IRON PRICE
(Pry these players from your leaguemates’ cold, dead hands. Figuratively.)
C.J. Prosise (33% Yahoo, 31% ESPN)
As Christine Michael’s effectiveness has waned, Prosise’s snaps have been slowly creeping upward. Sunday they went nuclear, as Prosise was in on 77% of Seattle’s offensive snaps, compared to just 16% for Michael. Sure, Michael was banged up, but this has been several weeks in the making, and with Seattle’s weak offensive line and a secretly pass-heavy approach, I think the changing of the guard is complete.
Check your wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Matt Jones was a healthy scratch while Rob Kelley got a healthy 22 carries, and has been much more elusive than Jones ever was… Tyrell Williams is averaging 15.7 points per game over his last 4 games not against Denver… Martellus Bennett has been quiet since Brady’s first game back, but with Gronk likely to miss Week 11, he’ll be a top TE option… Tyrod Taylor was heating up before last week’s bye, averaging 22.8 points per game in his last 3 games. Very favorable schedule coming up…. Kirk Cousins has fewer than 17 fantasy points just once since Week 1; amazing how quickly we form our opinions, and how slowly we move off said opinions.
PRETTY-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
(Should be owned in 10- and 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
James Starks (27% Yahoo, 29% ESPN)
Starks made his return on Sunday, rushing 7 times for 33 yards and adding 3 catches for 11 yards and a score. The quintessential James Starks performance: fine. More importantly, it was another low-usage game for Ty Montgomery out of the backfield, as Mike McCarthy is clearly happy to abandon the innovative approach (which had been working beautifully) while the team implodes around him. Regardless, Starks is locked into the traditional running back role for the Packers, making him a weekly RB2 play.
Colin Kaepernick (12% Yahoo, 14% ESPN)
With politics so polarized it’s hard to piss off both sides of the spectrum simultaneously, but Kaepernick managed to pull it off with an outspoken protest followed by not voting in the election. Putting that aside, he now has two 20+ point games since the 49ers’ bye week. This week he did it more with his legs, racking up 55 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries (adding 210 yards and a touchdown through the air). He still subscribes to the Lou Brown school of throwing, but even without any touch, now has over 600 yards and 3 passing touchdowns in his last two games.
Kaepernick’s an especially strong pickup if you’re planning ahead for the playoffs—he gets the very burnable Jets and Falcons in Week 14 and 15.
Rishard Matthews (54% Yahoo, 35% ESPN)
I talked about Matthews last week. It was another strong day for him on Sunday, catching 3 of 5 targets for 63 yards and a score while leading Titans wide receivers in snaps and targets. Marcus Mariota is absolutely dealing right now (17 TDs, 3 INTs since Week 5), and while that’s bound to regress eventually, the Titans’ schedule doesn’t really get any harder the rest of this season. Matthews is the clear-cut WR1 on an offense that’s no longer a laughingstock.
Sammy Watkins (37% Yahoo, 30% ESPN)
Not much analysis required here; Watkins is a stud when healthy, and is eligible to return off IR this week. He reportedly won’t, and there’s a chance he never makes it back. Still, with his upside, any team that’s locked into the playoffs needs to scoop him up before someone else has the chance. Buffalo has a great upcoming slate, with Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami in the fantasy playoffs.
LaDarius Green (10% Yahoo, 8% ESPN)
Green made his long-awaited Steeler debut on Sunday, catching 3 of his 4 targets for 30 yards. Modest production, but Green was an incredibly efficient player in San Diego, and always played well (8.6 points per game) when Antonio Gates was out. Green admitted he was limited last week, but has a chance to carve out a bigger role as he gets back to game speed. I’m a bit concerned Jesse James will rob him of some touchdowns (see what I did there?), but Green is nearly as big (6’6”, 240 lbs) and more athletic than James. James’ usage has also fallen in recent weeks (26 targets and 3 TDs through Week 5, just 13 targets and 0 TDs since), opening up the door for Green.
DuJuan Harris (35% Yahoo, 34% ESPN)
Carlos Hyde returned and took 2/3 of the 49ers’ snaps against Arizona, but managed only 14 yards on his 13 carries. Harris matched that production in just 5 carries, and has clearly carved out a role as the #2 back in this stubbornly run-heavy offense (5th most rushing attempts in the league, despite facing weekly negative game scripts). Harris has put up decent numbers in limited playing time throughout his career (4.2 YPA, 11.5 YPR), and would be a low-end RB2 in any games Hyde misses.
(Look… I warned you at the top this wasn’t a great week for pickups.)
Cameron Brate (53% Yahoo, 37% ESPN)
I’ve talked about Brate in the past. His usage is still a little low for my comfort, but that’s the case with most tight ends, and it’s somewhat counteracted by Brate’s red zone usage (11 red zone targets, 4th among tight ends). Brate is up to TE7 on the year after catching all 7 of his targets for 84 yards and a touchdown, and with Tampa’s favorable upcoming schedule and no viable wide receiver behind Mike Evans, is a good play the rest of the season.
Pierre Garcon (15% Yahoo, 28% ESPN)
On the year, Washington’s top 4 targets (Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, and DeSean Jackson) are all within 10 targets and 120 yards of each other. It’s a very egalitarian passing game, which is setting a great example in our nation’s capital, but not exactly great for fantasy. Even so, with Jackson missing last week and potentially more, Garcon is the first of several low-ceiling WR adds. He leads Washington in targets with 65, and is more or less on pace to match his WR3 production from a season ago.
Vernon Davis (6% Yahoo, 22% ESPN)
Davis now has at least 7.9 fantasy points in 4 straight games, and hasn’t fallen below 50 yards in that span. I keep waiting for him to come back to Earth, but he continues to produce, even with Jordan Reed back. This all feels very flimsy—he has only 18 targets during this steak, and won’t maintain an 89% catch rate—but the tight end position is by nature kind of flimsy. He’ll get Green Bay next, who just got exotic-smashmouthed for 47 points, including 9 catches for 124 yards and a score to TE Delanie Walker.
Dontrelle Inman (7% Yahoo, 12% ESPN)
Sometimes when I’m trying to put my daughter to bed, I’ll read her Dontrelle Inman stat lines. 3 catches for 58 yards. 4 catches for 72 yards. 6 catches for 56 yards. 5 catches for 43 yards. No touchdowns.
But Travis Benjamin is hurt and Inman has 9 targets in each of his last 2 games. That’s something. At this point there aren’t as many breakouts yet to be discovered, especially at wide receiver, so a solid player with good volume and a good QB make the list.
Eli Rogers (10% Yahoo, 21% ESPN)
The undrafted sophomore out of Louisville generated a lot of buzz in the preseason, but got off to a slow start (just 9 receptions through 3 weeks) before missing a few games with an injury. Rogers re-enters our radar with his second consecutive double-digit scoring game, catching 4 of 5 targets for 42 yards and a touchdown against Dallas. I’m reluctant to buy in—the demise of Sammie Coates has once again re-opened the door for a #2 alongside Antonio Brown, but Rogers hasn’t topped 6 catches all season and didn’t even produce much in college—but playing in a top offense with a good quarterback makes him borderline addable.
Check your wire (owned in <75% of leagues): As a regular attendee at the Ryan Mathews truther meeting, I was happy to see his monster game (19 carries, 109 yards, 2 touchdowns). He’s Philadelphia’s best back, but they’ve been shaking up usage weekly, making him hard to trust… Jamison Crowder has been a top 30 wide receiver in 6 of his 9 games this year, and sits at WR26 overall. He caught his 5th touchdown on Sunday, and now has 12 red zone targets, tied for 10th most in the league… Eric Ebron was dropped for his bye last week; he should be owned in all leagues as Detroit’s most consistent pass catcher… Michael Floyd racked up 101 yards on 5 catches, his first game over 65 yards all season. Meanwhile, newly-anointed starter J.J. Nelson had several miscues (a pretty good Floyd impersonation, actually). Floyd has scored ~4 points per game more in the 2nd half of the season, which is probably just noise, but gives you something to hang your hat on… It’s been a frustrating year for Zach Ertz owners, but he’s now caught 18 of 19 targets over his last 3 games. He’s still not scoring touchdowns—a problem dating back to college—but is the Eagles’ most reliable receiving target… DeMarco Murray didn’t look like a guy still struggling with a toe injury, but in any event, Derrick Henry returned after missing last week and is a handcuff worth owning in all leagues… Bilal Powell’s touchdown came on a trick play, but putting that aside, he was productive on Sunday in a game where the Jets passing offense otherwise didn’t do much. Powell is 3rd on the team in targets with 47, and remains a borderline flex play due to his passing game work, while also serving as a great handcuff to Matt Forte.
DEEPER LEAGUE PLAYS
(In no particular order.)
Jordan Howard is either hurt or “good, man,” depending on who you believe. If he misses time, it’ll be a timeshare between Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, neither of whom would be all that exciting. Carey’s the better player, but since Langford started the year with the job and got more work Sunday, he’d be my first pickup.
Philadelphia’s running back usage has been weird all season, with guys disappearing and re-emerging like a Back To The Future photo. After several weeks of Darren Sproles dominating the backfield, Ryan Mathews lead the Eagles in carries against Atlanta, with Wendell Smallwood not far behind. Smallwood played only 19 snaps (24%) but got 13 carries, which is going to be really difficult to repeat. It’s also just his 2nd game with more than 4 carries. Still, he’s produced when given the opportunity, and Mathews isn’t the model of health.
Damien Williams vultured 2 touchdowns in just 3 targets, which normally wouldn’t get us excited. However, Jay Ajayi left the game in pain with a wrist injury, and while he was able to return, it’s not a bad time to lock Williams up. The Dolphins o-line is playing well, and Adam Gase is doing everything he can to take the ball from Ryan Tannehill.
Tyreek Hill had the big game for Kansas City in Jeremy Maclin’s absence (13 targets, 10 catches, 89 yards), but played just 61% of the snaps. I’m dubious he’ll come close to 13 targets again; Maclin was averaging only 7.8 targets/game, and reached double digit targets just twice this year. This was also a game where KC fell behind and had to throw more. Meanwhile, Alex Smith is averaging just 265.5 yards per game since a 300-yard game in Week 1. If Maclin remains out then Hill’s big play ability makes him addable, but I’d stick with last week’s recommendation of Chris Conley first, who played the most of any KC wide receiver.
Bryce Petty didn’t look great on Sunday, but Robbie Anderson continued to outperform Quincy Enunwa. Anderson was all about the magic number against the Rams, catching 3 of 6 targets for 69 yards.
Injuries to Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, and Jonathan Grimes opened the door for 2nd year player Akeem Hunt, who responded with 8 carries for 52 yards. Miller appears to be OK, but he seems to pick up a new injury every week as he shoulders the heaviest workload of his career (averaging more than 5 carries/game than in prior seasons). Hunt has 4.4 speed and could be interesting in a run-based attack.
Virgil Green has 16 targets over his last 3 games. With the Broncos’ running game sadder than last week’s SNL cold open, Denver may need to turn more to the passing game. And with Trevor Siemian also looking sadder than last week’s SNL cold open, more easy completions to Green would make sense.
Any questions, hit me up on Twitter, @scedar015. Be sure to check out Chris Manni’s Streaming Spotlight and Adam Cook’s Field of Streams for weekly quarterback, tight end, and defense pickups.