The Wire Tap: Week 2
September 13, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Should I trade Adrian Peterson for Carlos Hyde?
Is Carlos Hyde the #1 running back this year?
Can Carlos Hyde beat up Chuck Norris in a fight?
This was the discussion after Hyde exploded for 30.20 points in Week 1 of 2015. There had been plenty of reasons to dislike Hyde heading into 2015, but his burnination of the Vikings seemed to put any such concerns to bed.
Until Week 2. His 6.10 performance against the Steelers was a harbinger of things to come, as all of the offseason concerns came to fruition. The 49ers’ offensive line struggled, finishing 30th in run blocking according to Pro Football Focus. Kaepernick was shook, losing his job to the also-terrible Blaine Gabbert. The defense cratered after numerous high-profile retirements and departures, finishing 27th in DVOA. The coaching drop-off was significant, with Tomsula one-and-done while Harbaugh turned Michigan into the Big 10 team that gets killed by Alabama a national title contender. The 49ers faced mostly negative gamescripts en route to a 5-11 finish. And Hyde’s prior injury history popped up, suffering a foot injury that eventually sidelined him after only 7 games. Everything Hyde’s doubters were concerned about before Week 1 proved 100% correct.
I’m about to write another 2,000 words on free agent pickups, but you only need to remember these 15:
If you liked a player heading into the season, you should still like him now.
It’s easy to overreact to Week 1 because it’s the only set of data we have, but weird stuff happens every week in the NFL. No one asked whether you should trade Adrian Peterson for Joseph Randle after he erupted for 28.50 points in Week 3. If Hyde’s monster Week 1 performance had come any other week, you’d hardly remember it.
There are exceptions—preseason analysis is far from perfect, and Week 1 is our first bit of “real” information—but for the most part, it should take more than one week of performance to alter your preseason opinions.
For purposes of waivers, this means you don’t turn over half your roster after Week 1. With that said, there are some intriguing developments from this weekend’s action. Here are the waiver wire pickups after Week 1.
Pay the Iron Price
(If you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, this means you should pry these players from your leaguemates’ cold, dead hands. Figuratively.)
Theo Riddick (35% Yahoo, 69% ESPN)
Riddick hauled in a whopping 80 catches last year, tied with Danny Woodhead for most among running backs. That total propelled him to an RB18 finish in PPR leagues last year, but his RB38 finish in standard leagues made the breakout feel less than real.
Well, Riddick’s 5-63-1-5 line (receptions-yards-TDs-targets) in Week 1 suggests the passing production isn’t going anywhere in 2016, as Jim Bob Cooter’s offense continued to emphasize shorter passing (Stafford’s Week 1 average depth of target was the lowest in the league). What’s more intriguing is Riddick also got to run the ball. After only 43 rushes last year (2.7 per game), Riddick received 7 carries against the Colts (going for 45 yards–6.4 YPC–and another TD). The receiving work provides a safe weekly floor, and the rushing work sticks, Riddick has tremendous upside even in standard leagues.
Check Your Wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Everything that happened this offseason pointed to Tajae Sharpe as the Titans’ #1 receiver. He led the way with 11 targets and an impressive 7 catch, 76 yard debut… Charles Sims was a top-24 running back last year, and picked up right where he left off, juking every player on the Falcons 53-man roster en route to a 23-yard touchdown … Travis Benjamin is the new number #1 receiver in San Diego. That’s probably less valuable than you think, but obviously worth a pickup… Will Fuller dropped a long bomb, but made up for it with an impressive 18-yard screen pass that he took for a touchdown. When he hits on the former and still has the latter, look out … Eric Ebron shook off his preseason ankle injury and is off to a good start for the third year breakout…Tevin Coleman ruined every Devonta Freeman owner’s day. Neither was impressive on the ground, but Coleman’s 5 catches for 95 yards (6 targets) is a bad omen for Freeman, the supposed passing game specialist who managed only 4 catches for 20 yards (4 targets).
Prett-ay, Prett-ay, Prett-ay Good
(Don’t break the bank, but all of these guys should be owned in 10- or 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
Mike Wallace (35% Yahoo, 41% ESPN)
I covered Wallace in my Ugly Ducklings column. The TL;DR version is Wallace runs fast and Joe Flacco throws far, which was on display on this 66-yard bomb. These won’t hit every week, but Wallace should also start getting more targets after Steve Smith’s 5-19-0-9 line, which even Jarvis Landry would be embarrassed by.
Chris Hogan (31% Yahoo, 40% ESPN)
I liked Hogan coming over from Buffalo, but wondered whether he’d be good enough under Jimmy Garoppolo to roster until Tom Brady came back. One week in, the Jimmy G offense looks fine, and Hogan looks great as the Patriots’ primary outside receiver. Hogan put up 3-60-1-4 against the Cardinals stout defense Sunday night, well on pace to match Brandon LaFell’s 2014 (62 catches, 953 yards, 7 touchdowns, WR21 finish). Targets might look different when Rob Gronkowski returns, but Hogan played 79% of the Patriots’ snaps, and clearly has a role in this offense.
Phillip Dorsett (39% Yahoo, 42% ESPN)
Just making our ownership cutoff, and for good reason. Despite a first round pedigree, Dorsett was largely ignored in fantasy drafts after a forgettable rookie year. Of course, much of the Colts’ offense was forgettable last year. With Andrew Luck back under center against the Lions, Dorsett led the Colts in receiving yards with 94 yards on 4 catches. The Colts giving up 39 points was no fluke. Nor was their 47 passing attempts, 2nd most in Week 1 (for what it’s worth, OC Rob Chudzinski’s last offense led the league in passing attempts). That volume makes Dorsett playable even as the 3rd option, and if T.Y. Hilton or Donte Moncrief were ever injured, Dorsett could be a top 20 receiver.
Tyrell Williams (1% Yahoo, 1% ESPN)
Keenan Allen was on his way to a brilliant debut before hitting the ground in the 2nd quarter writhing in pain. ACL tear. Out for the year. Yuck.
Williams, the subject of much preseason buzz, steps in as the #2 receiver behind Benjamin. Williams played sparingly his rookie year, but the 24 year old out of Western Oregon has the size (6’3”) and speed (4.43 40 yard dash) to back the hype. He caught 2 balls for 71 yards on Sunday (1 for 38 yards after Allen went down), but his volume is set to go way up the rest of the year. The Chargers’ offense tanked when Allen got hurt last year (2.22 points per drive with Allen; 1.34 points per drive without Allen), but Rivers has also shown an ability to elevate lesser players (his 2010 with a severely depleted cast is one of the more underappreciated seasons of all time). I wouldn’t go crazy to get Williams, but he has tremendous upside.
Dwayne Allen (83% Yahoo, 38% ESPN)
One week in and the Colts appear to have made the right choice on which tight end to keep. Allen put up a 4-53-1-6 line that could’ve been even bigger, as backup tight end Jack Doyle vultured two scores. Allen has always been capable of racking up touchdowns; the 53 yards and 6 targets provide hope of a bigger role in the offense that would provide a floor to go with his touchdown ceiling. Tough matchup in Denver looms.
Virgil Green (27% Yahoo, 10% ESPN)
For years Green was too valuable as a run blocker to get many opportunities as a receiver, despite being an insane athlete for his size. This year he finally has the opportunity to show off his receiving ability, and while he didn’t explode Week 1, it was a promising start. Green caught 4 passes for 28 yards, and was wide open in the end zone on a throw that got batted down at the line. Gary Kubiak has always featured his tight end, and Trevor Siemian doesn’t look like he’ll crater the Broncos offense. If Demaryius Thomas misses time, I’d target Green as the beneficiary over any of the Broncos’ backup wide receivers. In any event, he’s a worthwhile add for Week 2, playing against a dreadful Colts defense that just gave up a 5-46-1-5 line to Lions tight end Eric Ebron.
Eli Rogers (8% Yahoo, 12% ESPN)
Rogers gained steam in the preseason, though it always felt more like the other Pittsburgh receivers were just moving backward as Rogers stayed still. Rogers isn’t a dynamic prospect; he didn’t play after signing as an undrafted free agent last year, and never exceeded 550 yards or 4 touchdowns at Louisville. Still, 7 targets from Ben Roethlisberger is a workload worth owning, even if his touchdown was Plinko’ed off Sammie Coates’ hands.
Shane Vereen (14% Yahoo, 32% ESPN)
Meh. But after being targeted 81 times last year, Vereen had 11 opportunities (6 carries, 5 targets) on Sunday. Especially impressive in a game where Eli Manning threw only 28 times as Dallas played keepaway (starting with 15, 15 and 11-play drives). That number will go way up (the Giants finished 6th in pass attempts last year, and won’t be any less pass happy with Ben McAdoo replacing Tom Coughlin). Moreover, the Giants’ offense was clicking after a disastrous preseason, with 2.22 points per drive (they finished 8th with 2.03 points per drive in 2015). You want the pass catching back in good, pass-heavy offenses, even if he has a track record of mediocrity.
Nelson Agholor (4% Yahoo, 5% ESPN)
I liked Agholor as a late-round flyer given his pedigree, ankle injury, and difficult schedule last year. I’m a little less bullish on him with Carson Wentz under center (more on that below). Still, he looked pretty good on Sunday in a cake matchup, going 4-57-1-5. While focus shifted to Dorial Green-Beckham after his shocking trade from Tennessee, DGB received only 2 targets and was out-snapped by Agholor 67 to 25. Jordan Matthews was the featured receiver (14 targets), and Zach Ertz had great rapport with Wentz (6-58-0-7), but Agholor flashed his potential as the Eagles’ best outside receiver.
Victor Cruz (19% Yahoo, 19% ESPN)
I poo poo’ed Cruz all offseason, but he finally completed his comeback from a torn patellar tendon after 700 days off, catching all 4 of his targets for 34 yards and a touchdown against Dallas. That’s an okay line against a bad defense, and it was good to see Cruz back on the field, but I don’t think his injury concerns are behind him. Even if he stays healthy, he’ll be far removed from his prime, which wasn’t quite as good as you remember anyway (WR4, WR13, and WR30, and on pace for 61 catches and 899 yards in 2014).
Check Your Wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): I thought the Jameis Winston breakout was a year away, and it still might be, as Atlanta was a bottom 10 passing defense last year and didn’t do much to improve. Given his pedigree, he’s worth an add…T.J. Yeldon got the majority of the carries after Chris Ivory was sent to the hospital with an undisclosed illness that could threaten his availability Week 2. Yeldon didn’t do much, but still like his breakout potential…James White isn’t anything special, but I don’t think Dion Lewis plays this year, and the Patriots’ pass-catching back always ends up a RB2 in PPR leagues…the Falcons have one of the shallowest receiving corps in the league, so Mohamed Sanu will continue to get opportunities (5-80-1-8 in Week 1). Julio Jones was bothered again by his left ankle; Sanu would be a borderline WR1 if Jones misses time… Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls were in fact a 1-2 punch, as rumored this offseason. Neither excelled against a weak Dolphins defense, but Seattle’s offensive line tends to improve over the course of the year as Tom Cable works his magic… The Ravens’ backfield is like the Da Vinci Code; I’ll let you decide whether that means it’s a complex but intriguing puzzle to crack, or a pile of garbage generating more attention than it deserves. With Javorius Allen a surprise inactive and Terrance West unsurprisingly ineffective, Justin Forsett is the guy you want. His reputation as a one-year wonder is unfounded (averaged 4.69 YPC excluding his breakout 2014)… Isaiah Crowell out-touched Duke Johnson 14-6 in a game the Browns were losing from the start, and got the goal line work that turned into a touchdown. In a world where most RB2s are shaky, Crowell remains playable.
Deeper League Plays
(In no particular order)
Right on schedule. C.J. Spiller was a healthy scratch, leaving Travaris Cadet in the Saints pass-catching back role. Cadet turned 7 targets (compared to 2 for Mark Ingram) into 3 catches, 14 yards, and a touchdown. After Ingram took over much of the receiving role last year, the Saints returned to their split backfield approach on Sunday, with Cadet getting almost as many snaps (25) as Ingram (29). With Delvin Breaux suffering a broken fibula, the Saints are left with approximately 0 good defensive players. In other words, the Saints will be passing plenty this year.
Chris Thompson out-snapped Matt Jones 36 to 19, but Jones out-touched him 8 to 6. Thompson is worth owning in PPR leagues.
When the Jets cut Jace Amaro, it signaled Quincy Enuwa would have a role as the third pass-catcher behind Brandon Marshall and Erik Decker. Enuwa turned 8 targets into 7 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, and with the Jets a darkhorse candidate to lead the league in passing attempts, their 3rd receiver is a spot starter in 10- and 12-team leagues.
Jay Ajayi threw a temper tantrum on Friday and was left behind in Miami, leaving Damien Williams as the backup to starter Arian Foster. The Dolphins did everything they could over the offseason to move away from Ajayi; he could find himself on waivers sooner rather than later. At this point in the season you don’t need to roster handcuffs, but if you have a free spot and miss out on the bigger free agent targets, Williams is worth an add. If Foster gets hurt (what’s the opposite of a “big” if?), Williams could be the guy.
Dennis Pitta, not dead yet? After playing only 7 games over the past 3 years due to various ailments, Pitta surprisingly made it back to the field Sunday and contributed to the Ravens win with 3 catches for 39 yards on 4 targets. Pitta received the vast majority of the tight end snaps, working ahead of Crockett Gillmore (1 target, 1 catch, 5 yards) and Maxx Williams (not targeted). Pitta was a rising player and popular breakout candidate in 2013 when his injury problems cropped up. I doubt he reaches that potential after such a long hiatus, but he’ll be worth starting in favorable matchups.
Chris Conley is a SPARQ stud (98th percentile) stuck playing with Alex Smith, not exactly the best quarterback to utilize those gifts. Still, if Jeremy Maclin goes down, Conley has tremendous upside. He put up 4-43-0-7 in the Chiefs comeback win.
Dwayne Washington was the Lions’ goal line back ahead of Zach Zenner (healthy scratch). Hard to tell whether Sunday’s 39 point performance was a continuation of last year’s red hot finish under Jim Bob Cooter, or a continuation of last year’s ice cold play by the Colts’ defense. If it’s the former, Washington’s in a good spot to steal touchdowns.
I feel pretty strongly that Latavius Murray isn’t good, but his situation is, running behind the best offensive line outside of Dallas. So keep an eye on Jalen Richard. Richard fought his way onto the team as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi, then took the first carry of his career 75 yards for a touchdown (finishing with a 3-84-1 line). I liked DeAndre Washington this preseason because I felt the Raiders would start shifting opportunities elsewhere (and so far, they have), but Richard could be the primary beneficiary if Murray goes down.
That Don’t Impress Me Much
(Look, late-90s Shania Twain was the peak of Canadian country music, and you’re not convincing me otherwise.)
It was checkdown city in Dak Prescott’s debut, which has been par for the course when Romo’s out. Good for slot receiver Cole Beasley, who got 12 (!) targets in the Cowboys’ debut, with 8 catches for 65 yards. He also had a bad drop that would’ve gone for a touchdown. I doubt the Cowboys intend to throw it 45 times per game, and I doubt they intend Beasley to more than double Bryant’s targets. He’s a security blanket worth adding in deeper PPR leagues, but Week 1 isn’t what the Cowboys will look like Week 2-17, and there’s little upside.
There was a lot of buzz about Carson Wentz after he went 22/37 for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns. Make no mistake, those 2 touchdown throws were perfect. However, the Browns may have the worst defense in the league, and rookie quarterbacks generally need rushing production to be fantasy viable, so I’ll need to see more from Wentz before I advocate picking him up. I thought Wentz was a bust coming out of college, and if you skipped the intro (or forgot what it said, since it was so long ago), I’m generally not changing my thinking based on one game.
Heading into 2016 we were willing to forgive every aspect of the Packers’ offense except Davante Adams. I think that’s right—Adams wasn’t good in 2014 either—but he did rack 7 targets from Aaron Rodgers, including an incredible touchdown catch. If Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are back to soaking up defensive attention, Adams could leverage the favorable situation into a player worth owning. I think it’s a siren song.
After an underwhelming 4-43-0-6 line in Week 1, Sammy Watkins owners didn’t want to wake up to reports that his foot is still bothering him after the offseason Jones fracture. Reports have Watkins missing somewhere between no time and the rest of the season. Okay then. If the foot is a major problem, Robert Woods is next in line. Woods was on a 69-656-5-107 pace last year in 3 games Watkins missed, and the Bills’ mid-90s offense didn’t inspire confidence on Sunday. Charles Clay may become the de facto #1 if Watkins misses time; his pace without Watkins was similar to Woods’ (69-768-0-112), but those numbers play better at tight end than at receiver.
With both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu limping after the game, Justin Hardy would seemingly be worth an add, right? I’d rather let someone else take that shot. Nothing in Hardy’s college career, pedigree, athletic profile, or rookie year suggest he’d be worth a start even if Jones or Sanu misses time.
I feel the same way about the Broncos’ backup receivers, Jordan Norwood, Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer, one of whom will step into a starting role if Demaryius Thomas misses time with a hip injury. They combined for a target Week 1 (to Norwood), and I don’t see any scenario where you’d start them given their talent and offense.
My first drop for free agent pickups is usually my kicker, giving me the benefit of a full week of practice news and information before I have to sort out who my real drop will be. That means on Sunday morning, I’m scouring the waiver wire for a kicker. Chris Raybon at 4for4 has done some great research on kicker scoring, finding that your dart is best thrown at kickers who are favorites with an implied team total of 24+ points, ideally playing at home. This week that provides us with a number of options from the wire:
Josh Brown (vs. New Orleans, implied team total 29.25) (make sure he’s active, coming off suspension)
Matt Prater (vs. Tennessee, 26.25)
Sebastian Janikowski (vs. Atlanta, 26.75)
Josh Lambo (vs. Jacksonville, 25.5)
Brandon McManus (vs. Indianapolis, 25.5)
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.