THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 7
October 18, 2016 | Scott Cedar
The good folks over at the Living the Stream podcast have been on that anti-floss life ever since the Associated Press reported there’s no proof flossing actually works. I bring this up because I was at the dentist yesterday morning when the hygienist asked me if I floss regularly. “Nghaw,” I replied (that’s “no,” with someone’s hands jammed in your mouth). “Well your gums are bleeding,” she said, “so you should really floss every day.”
I mean… floss has nothing to do with it! Maybe the problem is you’ve been poking my mouth with that sharp scraper thing for 45 minutes. Don’t just point the finger at someone else.
That goes for you too, Allen Robinson. I don’t care if Blake Bortles is a train wreck, you overcame it last year. And you, Todd Gurley. Case Keenum and a junk offensive line isn’t hurting Kenny Britt, so what’s your excuse? Aaron Rodgers… last year we forgave everything because Jordy Nelson was hurt. Well he’s back. Now set your damn feet before you throw. We’re 6 weeks in, it’s time to stop making excuses and start performing.
Whew. We started with the fire emoji take because the rest of this column will be the exact opposite, as it’s a particularly uninspiring week for waiver pickups. As always, the focus is on players owned in under 40% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues, presented roughly in order of preference.
PAY THE IRON PRICE
(Pry these players from your leaguemates’ cold, dead hands. Figuratively.)
Cameron Meredith (52% Yahoo, 32% ESPN)
According to Brian Hoyer’s eHarmony profile, he likes long walks on the beach, travel, curling up with a good novel, and Cameron Meredith. After 12 targets last week, Meredith led the way again with 15 this week, catching 11 for 113 yards. Alshon Jeffery is finally speaking up (and finally had a game with double-digit targets), so maybe there’s a correction coming, but for now Meredith’s volume is delightful. I talked more about Meredith last week; he gets a good matchup Thursday at Green Bay before the Vikings and his bye, so he’s at least worth a pickup and start for Week 7.
Jay Ajayi (31% Yahoo, 43% ESPN)
Arian Foster finally returned from his groin injury, so of course Jay Ajayi dominated the backfield on Sunday, with 25 carries for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ajayi’s taken over the backfield the past 2 weeks, though Foster (game-time decision, only 5 touches) was seemingly still working his way back to full strength. It’s hard to trust—weird outlier games happen every year, and there’s nothing weirder than Miami crushing the red hot Steelers—but Ajayi is at least worth a pickup while we figure out if this is blue pill or red pill. Worth noting, the Dolphins have a rough 3 weeks coming up: vs. Buffalo (allowing 3.5 YPC, 5th lowest in the league), bye week, and vs. New York Jets (3.0 YPC, 2nd lowest in the league).
Check Your Wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Michael Thomas has touchdowns in 3 straight games and 44+ yards in every game this year… Spencer Ware dominated Jamaal Charles in both touches (26 to 11) and snaps (39 to 15, credit Nathan Jahnke). Charles is still working his way back and the Chiefs were leading, but Ware is legit good and should remain owned. This is another Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman debate, where the answer is “both.”… Dak Prescott hasn’t scored fewer than 17 points since his debut, and gets Dez back after the bye… It hasn’t been pretty, but Kirk Cousins has multiple touchdowns in 3 of his last 4 games and faces a Detroit secondary that made Case Keenum look good.
PRETTY-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
(Should be owned in 10- and 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
Ty Montgomery (1% Yahoo, 0% ESPN)
Montgomery has been used sparingly since being drafted in the 3rd round last year, so Sunday’s 12 target, 10 catch, 3 carry performance was quite the surprise. The truth is, after full year of sub-par play from Aaron Rodgers, I’m not that excited about any Green Bay skill players except Jordy Nelson. Even my irrational, undying love for Randall Cobb is fading. However, Davante Adams was killed on a monster hit, Cobb has a back issue, Eddie Lacy played limited snaps, and James Starks is out for a month. None of them practiced on Monday, and Green Bay plays Thursday.
In other words, Montgomery is primed to get a ton of opportunities this week, both at wide receiver and running back.
Breshad Perriman (4% Yahoo, 3% ESPN)
Kamar Aiken (17% Yahoo, 7% ESPN)
New OC Marty Mornhinweg made sure to feed Terrance West, but Flacco remained a high volume play, throwing it 48 times. Perriman caught only 3 of his 8 targets, and most of his damage came on a 41-yard play. Still, the size/speed combo that made him a 1st round pick gives him tremendous upside. Meanwhile, my preseason love Kamar Aiken finally showed up for 2016 with 4 catches for 64 yards while taking the 2nd most receiver snaps, but it’s hard to get excited until we see more.
Their value going forward all depends on Steve Smith’s ankle. It wasn’t reported to be a major injury, though he’s 37 and didn’t appear close to playing this week, so…
¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Aiken is safer, but Perriman has more upside; I like Perriman for next week as the Ravens stay in New Jersey to take on a Jets secondary that is both flammable and inflammable.
Alex Smith (28% Yahoo, 37% ESPN)
Smith scored only 8.86 fantasy points last week, but it was purely bad luck. In a plus matchup, he completed 19 of 22 passes for 224 yards. The touchdowns will be there, and while his sneaky rushing production hasn’t shown up yet (just 15 yards), he’s still averaging 2.6 rushes per game. Obviously Smith is schedule dependent; how does vs. New Orleans, at Indianapolis and at Carolina in 3 of his next 4 sound to you?
Colin Kaepernick (9% Yahoo, 9% ESPN)
Kaepernick wasn’t good on Sunday, completing fewer than half of his passes and throwing for just 6.45 yards per attempt. I don’t expect him to be particularly good moving forward either. It doesn’t matter.
Kaepernick had 8 carries for 66 yards on Sunday, and that will make him valuable. Chip Kelly lets his quarterbacks run when they’re capable (and sometimes when they’re not); 49ers quarterbacks now have 47 rushing attempts (7.8 per game), not far off Cam Newton’s league-leading 8.25 rushing attempts per game from 2015. Sunday should temper any expectations he’d be a better passer in this offense, though an optimist might say Kaep was in a tough spot. First start in a new offense. Travelling from one corner of the country to another. Facing the one defense Rob Ryan hasn’t messed up (yet).
In any event, it doesn’t matter as long as he keeps running.
Dorial Green-Beckham (5% Yahoo, 7% ESPN)
I speculated last week that with the Eagles’ first loss and first struggles on offense, they may take another look at the receiving corps. Per Jared Smola, they did just that, as DGB played a season high in snaps. The physical tools are there and his touchdown upside is immense. It’s speculative, but if you have room for him, grab him before a big week jacks up his price.
Zach Zenner (1% Yahoo, 2% ESPN)
With Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington both on the sideline, Zenner finally got to lead the Lions backfield. He took 14 carries for 58 yards (OK), with all 58 yards coming after contact (woah). Meanwhile, changing teams didn’t do Justin Forsett any good (5 carries, 5 yards). Zenner didn’t distinguish himself, so he’s a low-end pickup in case neither Riddick nor Washington can go.
Kenny Britt (11% Yahoo, 13% ESPN)
I’ve been writing off Kenny Britt because of the quarterback play, and maybe I should stick to my guns. But after going 8-7-136-2 (targets-catches-yards-touchdowns) on Sunday and making Keenum look perfect, Britt now has 30 catches for 492 yards and sits at WR16 on the year heading into Monday night. He’s always had talent, and while I’m still skeptical of the situation, it’s hard to keep ignoring the production.
Jack Doyle (5% Yahoo, 7% ESPN)
Dwayne Allen got hurt (words that have been typed before…), and in a brutal matchup for tight ends vs. Houston, Doyle filled in admirably with a 4-4-53-1 line. Doyle’s been involved all year (at least 4 targets in 4 of his 6 games), and given how much the Colts are using their tight ends, he’d be worth a start next week at Tennessee if Allen can’t go.
Anquan Boldin (20% Yahoo, 19% ESPN)
Boldin is the posterboy for this week’s waiver wire. Super un-inspiring, but worth discussing if you’re a degenerate fantasy footballer. After a 9-8-60-1 day on Sunday, Boldin is WR47 in points per game (minimum 3 games played), just barely relevant. He’s not racking up yards (8.4 yards per reception, 76th among wide receivers with at least 25 targets), but is getting volume (on pace for 99 targets) and touchdowns (scored in 3 of 6 games).
Pierre Garcon (14%Yahoo, 26% ESPN)
Solid production isn’t that valuable in August when there’s so much theoretical upside on the market. Boring players like Garcon are more appealing at this point in the season, when many of your sleepers have stayed asleep and injuries+byes make setting lineups a somber task.
The yardage is meh. The touchdowns are meh. But Garcon now has at least 5 targets in every game, and with Jordan Reed out (concussion), Garcon was Washington’s lead receiver with 11 targets on Sunday. Garcon was WR36 last year, and if Reed struggles to get back on the field, Garcon is likely to lead Washington’s pass-heavy attack in targets.
Check Your Wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): James White tied for the team high in targets with 9, catching 8 for 47 and 2 touchdowns. He’s an RB2 as long as Tomb Brady is in and Dion Lewis is out… Golden Tate finally showed up, going 10-8-165-1. I didn’t love Tate this year, but his slow start overstated the case against him… DeAndre Washington came the closest anyone has to taking charge of the Raiders backfield (32 snaps, compared to 14 for Jalen Richard). His 10 carry, 49 yard performance may earn him a larger share next week if Latavius Murray remains out… Changing of the guard for the Jaguars? Chris Ivory had 13 touches compared to T.J. Yeldon’s 7, the first time he out-touched Yeldon this season. Unfortunately, Ivory did less with more (2.69 YPT compared to Yeldon’s 26 yards, 3.71 YPT)… In Smith’s absence, Mike Wallace led the Ravens in targets (9), and gets the Jets next (hemorrhaging big plays)… Marcus Mariota has 7 rushing attempts and 60+ yards in back-to-back weeks, and his easy slate continues for pretty much the rest of the fantasy regular season… Tyrod Taylor has scored between 15.75 and 20 points in each of his 4 games since Greg Roman was fired, with no fewer than 5 rushing attempts in each game. He should ball out next week against Miami.
Special segment for this week only, as players who started the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list are eligible to start practicing again, and there are a few interesting names to monitor.
Dion Lewis has been seen walking around the Patriots’ locker room. My guess is the Patriots proceed slowly with him, especially since White and Blount are a capable duo, but Lewis is now worth rostering. He’s a borderline RB1 if he can return to last year’s form.
It appeared Ladarius Green would finally have the tight end role to himself after years as Antonio Gates’ understudy. Jesse James’ red zone prominence, however, caps Green’s upside even if he can get back onto the field, but anyone in the Steelers’ offense is at least potentially interesting.
Jets 2015 2nd rounder Devin Smith has played sparingly due to a variety of ailments, including a torn ACL last December. I love Smith’s game—he was an elite deep ball threat in college, think Will Fuller—and will have a role if and when he returns. The Jets desperately need a 3rd receiver with Eric Decker on IR.
Eddie Royal left Sunday’s game. He’s also old, and Eddie Royal. In other words, Marquess Wilson could have a role in deeper leagues.
Derek Carrier is a really good athlete who could be useful if Jordan Reed’s concussion lingers. He certainly has more upside than Vernon Davis.
DEEPER LEAGUE PLAYS
(In no particular order.)
Justin Hunter had his second game in a row with a touchdown. The 30-yard touchdown was his only target, but his playing time is up. Post-hype sleeper? The Bills certainly have a need, and Hunter’s big-play ability fits well with Tyrod Taylor’s all-or-nothing game.
For 49ers fans, Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. For Torrey Smith, it was Stand-At-The-Bow-Shouting “I’m The King Of The World!” exciting. Gabbert’s decision tree was toss short to Jeremy Kerley or tuck and run, killing Smith’s value. Kaepernick still has a cannon, and while it’s a very inaccurate cannon (his 53-yard touchdown bomb to Smith was actually badly underthrown), he’ll be much better at utilizing Smith’s deep-ball ability.
Rishard Matthews caught all 3 of his targets for 70 yards and a touchdown. If Mariota is rounding into form, not just taking advantage of an easy slate, Matthews would be the primary beneficiary. Tajae Sharpe is officially dead (0 catches on just 3 targets). More on Kendall Wright below.
Just as Doyle had a place while Dwayne Allen was the lead dog, Erik Swoope should have a role as the #2 TE in Indy while Doyle is first string. Swoope is 6’5”, and we love tight ends who were former college basketball players. He played over half of Indy’s snaps last night and got a few looks, catching 2 of 3 targets for 42 yards.
LeSean McCoy briefly exited the game with a knee injury but was able to return and appeared fine. Just a reminder that Mike Gillislee would be a nice fill-in if McCoy went down. Gillislee ran 6 times for 60 yards and a touchdown, as the Bills remain one of the run-heaviest teams in the league.
Ricardo Louis was targeted 9 times, catching 5 for 65 yards. The rookie out of Auburn is super raw, but also blazing fast (4.43 40 yard dash) for his size (6’2”). Or any size, really.
Charles Clay has a 21-15-172-0 line over the last 3 games; Robert Woods has 22-14-159-1. Similar production, but as I’ve said before, these numbers work much better at tight end than receiver.
I was all ready to jump on preseason standout Robert Kelley after he earned some buzz and a few touches last week. He played well on Sunday, busting a 45 yard run, but Matt Jones rebounded from a dreadful Week 5 with 135 yards and a touchdown to keep his hold on the job. For now… Kelley remains an interesting stash.
Uh oh, is Jordan Howard in a committee? After 2 weeks as the workhorse, Howard was down to just 2/3 of the running back workload. Kadeem Carey got 9 carries and put up 50 yards, compared to Howard’s 15 carries for 34 yards.
Carlos Hyde briefly left the game on Sunday with a shoulder injury. He appears OK, but if not, Mike Davis led the rest of the way in touches. He didn’t do much with them (5 carries, 13 yards), and would be purely a volume/desperation play.
Devontae Booker is still worth an add after another good performance on Thursday, but C.J. Anderson’s demise is overstated. He lost over 10 points as penalties negated big plays, and I’ll take the guy who can do this.
Chris Johnson is on IR, making Andre Ellington (a top 20 RB just 2 years ago) a valuable handcuff.
THAT DON’T IMPRESS ME MUCH
Kendall Wright had 4 targets in 2 games this season before putting up a 9-8-133-1 line on Sunday. The coverage on his touchdown was so bad he had time to make the catch, fall down, and get up again to get into the end zone. Wright has a long history of injuries and mediocre production, so it’s hard to get excited. It’s also curious that he dominated targets (no other Titan had more than 3) despite limited playing time (just 22 snaps); maybe it’s the start of a trend, but I wouldn’t rush out to get him.
If you picked up Vernon Davis with Jordan Reed out, it worked, but I think you got lucky. Davis put up 50 yards and a touchdown while taking the vast majority of Washington’s TE snaps, but had only 4 targets and remains a greatly diminished athlete.
Coby Fleener’s big day was fool’s gold. He scored two touchdowns: one was a rushing touchdown, and the other came when he stepped in front of a pass aimed at Willie Snead. Meanwhile, coming out of the bye, his workload decreased as he played fewer snaps than Josh Hill.
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.