Fake Football, Real Questions (November 2nd Edition)
November 2, 2013 | Staffy Stafferton
Adrian Peterson hasn’t exceeded 13 carries or 62 yards in the past 3 weeks. Is it time to be a little bit concerned? If the season ended today, would he still be your number one pick in next year’s draft?
I think it’s obvious owners need to be concerned. With no threat in the passing game, Peterson has become fairly easy to stop. With that said, the run defenses he’s faced lately haven’t been the easiest of matchups. I’m not ready to make a call on his value next year just yet, as I need to see the QB situation evolve first. However, if the season ended today, with the QB situation this ugly, I don’t think he’d be a consensus #1. Then again, I’m not sure who would be. The RB position has been extremely hit or miss all season.
Would Peterson be my speculative #1 running back in next year’s draft? Probably not. Would Peterson still be in my top 5? Absolutely. His stats haven’t been jumping off the screen, but he still passes the eye-test when I watch him play. Peterson rarely gets tackled on first contact and he still has exceptional speed. The small workload is concerning, but I don’t mind Minnesota’s play-it-safe approach because he breaks enough big gains to remain top-10 at his position. Furthermore, those limited carries help mitigate the risk of injury, a constant worry for owners of more heavily used backs like Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy. Don’t overreact to the small sample size of the past 3 weeks. Adrian Peterson is still an elite fantasy commodity.
I own Peterson is a few leagues and while I’m not panicking, I’m a little concerned. The quarterback play and offensive play-calling has been worse than what we feared to start the season, but I think the Vikings will ultimately get back to running the ball with greater regularity. That could start this weekend against a Dallas team that gives up 4.4 yards per carry to opposing rushers, and there are favorable matchups coming up against Washington, Chicago, and Philadelphia, as well. Peterson almost certainly will not be the number-one pick next year, given the rise of younger players in more dynamic offenses, but he’s still one of the top-tier guys.
I’m not worried about Peterson in the least. In what can only be characterized as a down year, he still ranks 4th among RBs with a 15.9 fantasy points per game average (standard scoring). Yes, the Vikings QB situation is wretched. And yes, OC Bill Musgrave is a dunderhead (still can’t believe he let off-the-street Josh Freeman throw 53 times against the Giants in Week 7), but last I checked, Peterson put up historic numbers while being saddled with Musgrave and Christian Ponder last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson is still Peterson. He leads the NFL in yards after contact per attempt, and ranks 2nd in forced missed tackles, making him by far the most elusive running back in the league. It won’t be long before the Vikings once again come to the conclusion that their best chance on offense is to continue running Peterson into stacked fronts until he breaks a long one. As long as he’s over his hamstring injury (most likely the real culprit here), Peterson is my number one back from today forward, and I would still take him first overall if a new season started today.
Biggest non-TY Hilton fantasy beneficiary of the Reggie Wayne injury? Darrius Heyward Bey, Coby Fleener, Lavon Brazill , the field?
I’ll say Fleener. Wayne was Luck’s security blanket and main possession man. Fleener is an intermediate and red-zone threat, so he makes sense as a guy who can step in and move the chains and score touchdowns. DHB’s hands and routes are way too inconsistent to trust, and Brazill is a huge question mark.
I’ll take the field, namely the Colts’ running backs. Indianapolis will need to rely on the running game more with Wayne out and the vertical threat of Hilton and DHB should create opportunities for Trent Richardson and Donald Brown to find space. I like Fleener’s prospects in the red zone, but I worry that opposing defenses will key on him as the Colts’ primary possession receiver. In general, all the players listed should benefit, but the tailbacks should gain the most value relative to their production before Wayne’s injury.
I’ll take the field and namely Donald Brown. An already-conservative offense under Pep Hamilton – only four teams have attempted fewer passes per game than Indianapolis to this point – will likely rely even more on the running game and the short pass. With Trent Richardson’s ineffectiveness, Brown could be the player that sees the biggest increase in touches following Wayne’s injury. Given the Colts’ remaining schedule and how well their defense has been playing, however, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Indy’s offense relying on more of a ball-control approach, potentially limiting the upside of everyone involved.
Give me Coby Fleener. Reggie Wayne ran 70% of his routes out of the slot, where he saw 39 of his 57 targets this season. If Fleener can soak up some of that slot action (where he creates huge mismatches with his unique size/speed combo), he instantly becomes a weekly top 8 option at TE. Fleener also seems the best suited candidate to inherit Wayne’s lucrative role as Andrew Luck’s go-to chain mover on third downs. Odds are Fleener is floating on your waiver wire in 12 team leagues thanks to the Colts’ bye last week. If you have room at the back end of your roster, stash him until we see how Indy adjusts to life without Wayne.
Give us one player who will underperform in the 2nd half that might surprise most people.
Peyton Manning. Maybe that’s an easy call or a cop out, but I can’t see Manning keeping up this pace. Not only does he have to face the Chiefs twice as well as some other tough match-ups, but he’s getting nicked up and turning the ball over suddenly. It’s not exactly a recipe for a record-setting second half. For a harder call, I’ll say LeSean McCoy. Teams are going to key in on him like crazy without Vick.
I’ll go with a different Bronco: Knowshon Moreno. Montee Ball is starting to get more involved as the Broncos prepare for an almost-certain playoff run. Meanwhile, the same tough schedule waiting for Peyton Manning also waits for Moreno. Denver faces San Diego and Kansas City a total of four times in the second half. The Chargers have yet to give up a touchdown to a running back and the Chiefs give up the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs. There are some softer match-ups on the slate for Moreno, but he’ll struggle to maintain his top-3 pace over the second half.
It’s Broncos regression time at The Fake Football! I’ll pick Julius Thomas for a second half let down. In his last three games, Thomas has averaged just 30 receiving yards per game. Of course, he also has two TDs in those games, putting him at eight through 8 games. That insane TD pace (and dependence) is the precise reason I’m down on Thomas. How many more can he realistically grab the rest of the way? Before Rob Gronkowski shattered the single season TD record for TEs by scoring 18 times in 2011, the most TD’s ever scored in a season by a TE was 13 (Antonio Gates 2004, Vernon Davis 2009). Thomas is good, but he’s not historically good. I’m willing to bet he falls short of 13, meaning his best stretch of fantasy production is behind us. The fact that he’s never played anything close to 16 games in a season before, and the ankle injury he’s currently nursing have me on high alert for a physical breakdown as well (serious ankle problems cost Thomas most of the past two years). Give me a few drinks, and you can probably talk me into betting on Coby Fleener as the better second half fantasy tight end option.
I’ll go with the aforementioned T.Y. Hilton. A lot of people seem to be counting on Hilton as a top 15-20 fantasy wide receiver from this point forward, but I think he’ll be far from it. Keep in mind that Reggie Wayne, a vastly superior player in my opinion, was barely cracking the top 25 at his position in most leagues. As I said above, it won’t surprise me to see the Colts being even more conservative on offense, and Hilton isn’t going to absorb all of what Wayne was doing anyway. It’s a nice opportunity for Hilton, but I think anyone getting overly excited about his upside is going to be disappointed.
Mario Manningham is set to return after the 49ers Week 9 bye. Given San Francisco’s lack of quality WR options, is Manningham a relevant name in 12 team leagues?
Not until he shows us something. There are actually a good amount of guys who have stepped up at WR this year that you want to roll with ahead of him. Terrance Williams and Keenan Allen are the hotter names, while Jarrett Boykin and Harry Douglas are ones worth noting of late. The reality is, no one stepped up for the 49ers before Manningham at the #2 spot, so he’s no lock to do it coming off of a torn up knee, either.
I’m with Kevin on this one. Across the league, wide receiver is the position at which owners are least likely to need help. Owners who lost guys like Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, and Reggie Wayne have likely found suitable replacements via waivers and free agency. Manningham could have some value over the final weeks of the season, but I can’t say I’d rather have him than Darrius Heyward-Bey, Aaron Dobson, Kenny Stills, or any of the players noted by Kevin above.
Plugging in a returning stud at mid-season is all sorts of fun. Just ask Rob Gronkowski owners (and Percy Harvin owners in a week or two…hopefully). The problem with Manningham, of course, is that he’s not Gronk or Harvin. He’s a 5 year veteran who has never caught over 60 passes in a season, never gone over 1,000 yards, and never made a habit of staying healthy (he’s played more than 12 games just twice). Even fresh off a torn ACL, Manningham is a clear upgrade over Jon Baldwin and Kyle Williams for the Niners, but it won’t amount to all that much in fantasy. San Francisco is running the ball nearly twice as much as they’re passing it since Week 4, and they’re doing it well. According to numberFire’s metrics, the 49ers run game has been the second best in the league this season. Don’t expect the Niners run heavy game plan to change on account of Manningham’s return. If three catches for 51 yards strikes your fancy, then you may have found your guy, but I’m guessing you can do better in 12 teamers.
Manningham is ownable in most 12-team leagues, but keep your expectations in check. San Francisco is predominantly a running team and Manningham is at best going to be the third option in the passing game behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. I don’t think there is going to be enough volume for Manningham to make a splash in fantasy circles, but if you have roster flexibility, he might be someone to stash as a lottery ticket.