THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 10
November 8, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Election Day! Finally this ridiculous, drawn-out election cycle will come to an end (assuming no coup attempt by the loser—can’t be ruled out). In honor of this election, I’m offering you a bunch of unappealing options to choose from, including a whole basket of deplorable running backs. Hey, no matter how the election goes, only half the country is going to be upset. That’s way better than the end of the fantasy season, when pretty much everyone is disappointed with the outcome.
As always, the focus is on players owned in under 40% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues, ranked roughly in order of preference. With real life getting in the way of fake football for me this week, this will be a (slightly) abbreviated look at the wire.
PAY THE IRON PRICE
(Pry these players from your leaguemates’ cold, dead hands. Figuratively.)
Robert Kelley (29% Yahoo, 26% ESPN)
I talked about Kelley last week. To carry the dating metaphor one step further, on Monday Washington had the “I just need some space” conversation with Matt Jones, as Jay Gruden confirmed Kelley would be the lead back going forward. Tough schedule coming up, but I like the talent and touchdown upside.
Dion Lewis (38% Yahoo, 30% ESPN)
I’ve been a total nag when it comes to Dion Lewis… but seriously, pick up Dion Lewis. The Patriots are “holding out hope” Lewis can play this week, and while hope and fantasy football don’t exactly mesh, Lewis has season-changing upside if he can return to last year’s form.
PRETTY-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
(Should be owned in 10- and 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
Dwayne Washington (3% Yahoo, 5% ESPN)
Washington returned after a 4-week absence and played ahead of Zach Zenner (DNP-CD) and Justin Forsett (healthy scratch). His production was modest (26 yards on 10 carries), but I love the big play ability he showed in college and his role going forward as the primary runner/goal line back in a good offense. The Lions are on bye this week, so move him down if you need immediate help, but I like Washington’s rest of season upside more than anyone else featured below.
James Starks (18% Yahoo, 18% ESPN)
I talked about Starks last week (which in turn refers you to my Week 6 column, making this a fun choose-your-own-adventure style waiver piece). He was out this week, but signs point to a return next week against Tennessee. The Packers’ RB-phobic approach has been working since Lacy went on IR, but it’s probably not sustainable long term and Ty Montgomery is still limited with his sickle cell issues. That gives Starks a place in this offense in the traditional RB role when he returns.
Tim Hightower (54% Yahoo, 40% ESPN)
I ignored Hightower last week, figuring the Saints had made their point by benching Mark Ingram and would return him to alpha-dog status. Instead, Hightower was the lead back on Sunday, getting the first 8 carries before Ingram touched the ball. This is dumb—Hightower isn’t good (3.8 YPC on 23 carries against a 49er defense allowing 5.1 YPC coming into the game), while Ingram had a monster day (15 carries for 158 yards) once given a chance. But I can’t just ignore that Hightower has carved out a role in an elite offense (2.61 points per drive, 3rd best in the NFL). Hightower’s a begrudging add.
J.J. Nelson (14 % Yahoo, 10% ESPN)
Talked about him last week. Since then, HC Bruce Arians bestowed upon Nelson the (meaningless) designation as a starter, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. I feel less confident about this one—John Brown is a similar, better player, and the Arizona offense is just 20th in points per drive—but Nelson has a great matchup at San Francisco this week and some long-term upside.
Chris Conley (0% Yahoo, 1% ESPN)
Albert Wilson (0% Yahoo, 0% ESPN)
Jeremy Maclin left Sunday’s game early with a groin injury. His timeline to return is “fuzzy,” which doesn’t give a lot of confidence he’ll play Week 10 against Carolina and its secondary of Not Josh Normans.
That leaves us to guess who among the Chiefs receivers will benefit in this low volume, low upside passing offense. Wilson had twice as many targets on Sunday and scored the touchdown, but Conley out-snapped Wilson (51 to 41) and has consistently run ahead of Wilson this season. Conley also has the better athletic profile (check out these combine numbers) and pedigree (3rd round pick out of Georgia>undrafted out of Georgia State), making him the better add. Wilson is a favorite of WR guru Matt Harmon, so he’s worth monitoring, and in deeper leagues adding, as well.
Chris Ivory (32% Yahoo, 42% ESPN)
This one’s tricky. T.J. Yeldon has out-snapped Chris Ivory all year, including Sunday (43 to 34), as Ivory still has not played more than 50% of the Jaguars snaps in any game this season. However, Ivory was the primary rusher against Kansas City, gaining 106 yards on 18 carries, compared to just 33 yards on 7 carries for Yeldon. I don’t think this is the start of a 2nd half breakout—the Jaguars’ run blocking has been problematic all year, and Blake Bortles doesn’t have me rushing out to invest in this offense. Yeldon is also the better pass catcher and continued to get more work there (6 targets for Yeldon, just 2 for Ivory). Still, Ivory is a really good player when healthy, which he appears to be now, and his ability to run through folks may fit better with a struggling offensive line.
Paul Perkins (6% Yahoo, 4% ESPN)
The Giants were averaging just 3.3 YPC heading into Sunday (4th worst in the league), so you figured they might try something new out of their bye. Then again, Ben McAdoo is the same offensive coordinator who handed the ball to Andre Williams nearly 10 times per game, willingly, for 2 years.
Perkins was meh in an increased role on Sunday, rushing 11 times for 32 yards (including a lot of stuffs) and catching 3 passes for 15 yards. He was also out-snapped by Rashad Jennings 37 to 22. Jennings, of course, was even worse (11 carries, 26 yards) as he continued to look his age. Perkins is worth an add in hopes that his role expands as the Giants move away from Jennings and Bobby Rainey (just 5 snaps, 0 touches).
Kapri Bibbs (5% Yahoo, 4% ESPN)
Another week, another poor performance from Devontae Booker, who now has 76 yards on 29 carries (2.6 YPC) since C.J. Anderson was placed on IR. I don’t think it’s all his fault—Denver’s o-line has been inconsistent all year, and Oakland’s D was uncharacteristically nasty Sunday night—but the why doesn’t matter. The buzz out of Denver is that the ratio of carries (10 for Booker, 2 for Bibbs) “figures to change in Bibbs’ favor versus New Orleans.” Hard to say whether that means “more than 2 carries” or “a majority of the carries,” but I’ll still speculate on any Kubiak running back.
Peyton Barber (18% Yahoo, 12% ESPN)
Let’s start with the obvious—terrific name. Sounds like one of those randomly generated names in Madden, and I’d definitely pick him up in franchise mode.
Would I pick him up for my fantasy team? Only if I’m RB needy. Barber was the lead running back for the Bucs on Thursday, but he didn’t show much with his carries against a mediocre Atlanta run defense. Even so, Antone Smith was placed on IR after the game and Jacquizz Rodgers is still in a walking boot, leaving Barber with the job until Doug Martin comes back. That may be as soon as this week, but if not, Barber will at least get volume as a plug in RB2.
Rishard Matthews (29% Yahoo, 11% ESPN)
Matthews continued his slow climb up the Titans’ hierarchy, with a team-high among pass-catchers in snaps and targets en route to a 6 catch, 63 yard, 2 touchdown day. As the bye weeks wind down Matthews is addable more for depth than anything else, but he’s a nice player and viable fill-in with Mariota playing well over the past 5 weeks.
DuJuan Harris (33% Yahoo, 31% ESPN)
Harris was clearly the lead back with Hyde nursing a shoulder injury, running 10 times for 59 yards and adding 5 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown receiving. This was a cake matchup, and Hyde could be back as early as next week, but Harris has emerged in an RB-friendly offense (as long as that RB isn’t DeMarco Murray) (and as long as Chip Kelly remains employed, which might not be long). Even if Hyde returns next week, Harris may have carved out a role, and it’s only a matter of time until Hyde is back on the shelf.
Jay Cutler (8% Yahoo, 4% ESPN)
Alex Smith (24% Yahoo, 26% ESPN)
There’s a host of good quarterback options for Week 10, which Chris Manni will cover in his streamer column. Looking beyond just this week, Jay Cutler has a really nice slate of upcoming games (including Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Detroit, and Green Bay) and, as Cutler himself said, the Bears have no other choice but to roll him out.
Smith appears ready to return from his head injury that wasn’t a concussion for 2 nice matchups against Carolina and Tampa. With Spencer Ware still concussed and Charcandrick West ineffective, the Chiefs may see a slight uptick in passing.
FWIW, I’m very wary of Joe Flacco, a prime streaming candidate vs. the Browns this week. His matchup looks great, but it’s a Thursday night game and his 2nd game against Cleveland, both of which point to fewer fantasy points. He’s also been awful, surpassing 20 fantasy points just once despite having the 4th most attempts in the league.
C.J. Fiedorowicz (11% Yahoo, 12 % ESPN)
Another guy I covered last week. With the Texans off bye, he’s a good fill-in based on pure volume. Targets at tight end are still valuable, even if they come from Brock Osweiler.
DEEPER LEAGUE PLAYS
(In no particular order.)
C.J. Prosise continued to eat into Christine Michael’s workload; per Nathan Jahnke, Prosise out-snapped Michael 26 to 18, including 15 2nd half snaps.
Ronnie Hillman was oddly effective on Sunday, rushing 7 times for 30 yards against Detroit. No one has been able to run behind the Vikings offensive line this year, so I wouldn’t bank on a mediocre journeyman like Hillman to break the trend. On the other hand, no one has been able to run behind this offensive line, meaning neither Matt Asiata nor Jerick McKinnon have any claim to this backfield, and Hillman’s performance should earn him a bigger share of the work next week against Washington (allowing 4.9 YPC, 2nd most in the NFL).
Marquise Lee has at least 6 targets in 6 of his 8 games this year, and if Allen Hurns misses time with a concussion, Lee would be addable. Talent has never been the problem with him, and he’s managed to stay healthy so far. Just watch out for the Jaguars’ tough upcoming schedule.
Case Keenum was awful yet again on Sunday, but sent 12 of his awful passes to Lance Kendricks, who caught 7 for 90 yards. Kendricks now has 29 targets over his last 3 games, and while that’s translated to only 24 fantasy points, the volume provides a good floor for as long as it continues. (FWIW, backup TE Tyler Higbee had 7 targets against Carolina, so expect the Rams to continue feeding their tight ends while ignoring that Gurley guy). The Rams are at Jets, vs. Dolphins, and at New Orleans in their next 3 games, a nice stretch if you’re TE needy.
Vance McDonald has been quiet since Week 2, but actually sits at TE20 after an 84-yard, 1 TD performance. Everything we liked about him in the preseason (passing volume, negative game scripts, 2nd round pedigree) remains intact.
I was beating the Colin Kaepernick drum over the past few weeks, but don’t love his next 2 matchups. I wouldn’t roster him in 10- or 12-team leagues over that stretch, but starting in Week 12 he gets a juicy slate with Miami, Chicago, NY Jets, and Atlanta. That makes him addable in deeper leagues if he’s somehow still available.
Kenneth Farrow has only 16 touches for 62 yards on the year, but with Melvin Gordon on pace for nearly 400 touches, now’s a good time to grab his backup.
After an RB orgy in Week 7, the Ravens came out of the bye splitting carries between Terrance West (15 carries, 21 yards, 29 snaps) and Kenneth Dixon (9 carries, 13 yards, 20 snaps). Hard to say whether West’s recent struggles are due to an ankle injury suffered early in Week 7, or just him coming back to earth, but either way Dixon is worth an add given his upside if he can commandeer more work.
Catching the good Ted Ginn games can be as profitable as trying to time the tulip market, but he now has 8, 6, and 7 targets in his last 3 games as the Panthers’ other receivers, Devin Funchess especially, have disappointed. He hasn’t hit the big play yet (0 TDs, after 10 last year), but if you need a hail mary play at WR, Ginn gets 3 beatable secondaries (KC, New Orleans and Oakland) over the next 3 weeks.
With Jacob Tamme out, rookie Austin Hooper shined, going 6-3-46-1 (targets-receptions-yards-TDs). His TD came late, when the game was already decided, and frankly everyone was balling out against Tampa’s weak pass defense. With all the byes last week, he’s probably owned in any league where he needs to be owned. Atlanta plays at Philadelphia next, and despite the thrashing Eli Manning put on the Eagles last week, Philly has a good pass defense.
Antonio Andrews will back up DeMarco Murray for the next few weeks, as Derrick Henry is sidelined with a calf injury. We saw what he can do last year, which is not much.
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.