THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 6
October 11, 2016 | Scott Cedar
I love when Apple rolls out a new update for the iPhone. It’s always the same—they don’t “fix” anything, because there’s nothing broken in the first place—they just change stuff that was already working fine to make it different. Not better, not worse, just an equally functional phone that looks a little different and has a few new, unnecessary features. I just installed the newest update last week, and now my poop emoji appears a little bit bigger when I text my wife. Great.
There’s temptation at this stage of the season to do the same thing with your fantasy team. I write the waiver wire column, so I should be promoting active waiver wireism the way Ken Bone promotes clean energy solutions and red sweaters. But I don’t want to be like Apple; there should be a purpose to your roster moves, and at this point in the season, hopefully there are weeks where the smart move is to do nothing.
It’s especially important not to get restless and to avoid tinkering in a week like this, where there really isn’t much value on the wire. In any event, let’s dig in. 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.)
Sammie Coates (36% Yahoo, 40% ESPN)
Coates had only 7 catches before exploding for 12 over his last 2 games. Part of me thinks this is overreacting to a small sample size—a volatile player like Coates will have big weeks, and sometimes, those weeks will come back-to-back.
Still, it’s hard to ignore his Martavis Bryant lite performance. And I looooooove Martavis Bryant. It’s clear the Steelers recognize the value of that type of athletic, big-play receiver in their offense; Coates has 19 targets over the last 2 weeks, and despite 5 (!) drops on Sunday, he continued to get fed. He, in turn, has consistently produced big plays, with a 40-yard catch in every game this season. Five weeks in, the Steelers’ pecking order is set, with Sammie Coates way ahead of Marcus Wheaton and Eli Rogers for the coveted spot opposite Antonio Brown.
Check Your Wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Spencer Ware’s ownership has dropped to 66% with Jamaal Charles back and the Chiefs on bye. That’s a mistake; I think Charles gets as many carries as he needs, but even in that worst-case scenario there’s still a place for Ware… Weekly reminder that Donte Moncrief is being dropped. Phillip Dorsett had another dud, with just 2 catches for 26 yards… DeAndre Washington had 14 touches for 52 yards against the Chargers. Disappointing—more on this below—but Washington is still a priority add.
PRETTY-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
(Should be owned in 10- and 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
Cameron Meredith (4% Yahoo, 2% ESPN)
What the hell is going on in Chicago? Alshon Jeffery continues to see limited targets (just 16.7% market share), and while rumor has it he’s not fully healthy, he’s looked fine on the field and has produced when called upon. Meanwhile, the Bears continue to pepper their #2 receiver. With team target leader Kevin White on IR, Meredith stepped in for 12 targets, catching 9 for 130 yards and a touchdown while playing nearly every snap. It’s hard to say how much of this was the Indianapolis pass defense (allowing 7.3 net yards/attempt, tied for 7th worst in the league), and how much was a true breakout. Either way, Meredith has a good size/speed combo (6’3”, 4.49 40-yard dash) and two favorable matchups coming up (Jacksonville, Green Bay). I much prefer the unknown Meredith’s upside to the very much known Eddie Royal, who predictably cooled off after a big Week 4.
Jalen Richard (21% Yahoo, 19% ESPN)
With Latavius Murray out with a toe injury, we wanted DeAndre Washington to emerge as the lead dog and make the Raiders’ backfield great again. That was never going to happen; it’s been a split job from day one, and the pre-game “ride the hot hand” rhetoric was predictably just fluff. Washington did lead in snaps against San Diego, but he and Richard each received 14 touches. Richard was more effective (97 yards) than Washington (52 yards), but I think the Raiders really like both of these guys. Hey, me too!
Richard actually leads the Raiders backs in yards from scrimmage; he’s averaging 7.0 YPC on 25 attempts (and a respectable 4.1 YPC if you take out his 75-yard TD run Week 1) and has been the Raiders’ best pass-catching back. What is all boils down to is both Washington and Richard are playable as your RB2 or Flex while Murray is out. The Raiders have a great offensive line and are throwing the ball pretty well (their 6.9 net yards/attempt is tied for 10th in the league), meaning even 50% of the workload is valuable.
Bilal Powell (35% Yahoo, 45% ESPN)
As the Jets’ passing defense continues to escort opposing receivers into the end zone, the Jets’ offense will be forced to go to the air. That means more Powell, who had 6 catches on 8 targets as the Jets played catch up with Pittsburgh. Matt Forte is curiously getting the Doug Marrone/C.J. Spiller “feed him ‘til he pukes” treatment on the ground, but has only 19 targets compared to Powell’s 29. Weird usage—Forte’s only one of the best receiving running backs of all time—but we’ll ride the trend as the Jets have the 6th most passing attempts heading into Monday night.
Kenneth Dixon (38% Yahoo, 34% ESPN)
On Sunday night I watched two presidential candidates and two top quarterbacks flub their way through very sub-par performances, while I was writing some truly profound analysis of the Ravens backfield and Marc Trestman’s offense.
Oops… Trestman was sent packing on Monday, with Marty Mornhinweg named the new offensive coordinator. In Trestman’s short stint in Baltimore, his offenses finished 25th & 22nd in rushing attempts, compared to 1st and 3rd in passing attempts. In Mornhinweg’s last stint as an offensive coordinator (NYJ, 2013-’14), he was the exact opposite, finishing 5th and 4th in rushing attempts compared to 29th and 27th in passing attempts. There was also reportedly “internal frustration with play-calling & run-game handling.” Reading between the lines, expect more work for Terrance West, who was dominating the Redskins early but finished with only 11 carries.
This all makes me less bullish on Dixon, whose passing game prowess would’ve made him the better fit for Trestman’s scheme. Regardless, if the Ravens run more it means a bigger rushing pie for West and Dixon to split, and with Dixon finally getting onto the field his arrow is pointing up.
Chris Hogan (25% Yahoo, 35% ESPN)
I’ve been touting Hogan since Week 1 and mentioned him as a pickup last week, so it was nice to see him lead the Patriots in receiving with a 5-4-114-0 (targets-receptions-yards-touchdowns) line on Sunday. He was only 5th in targets (behind Gronkowski, Bennett, Edelman, and White) and will never be a red zone priority, so expect some weekly volatility, but a 1,000-yard pace going forward is reasonable.
James Starks (9% Yahoo, 24% ESPN)
If not, then it’s time for the annual James Starks tease. He’s like one of those annoying white guys on Duke who somehow has 8 years of eligibility. How is this guy still on the team?
Starks averaged 7.55 points on 14.5 carries in the 2 games Lacy has missed since 2013, which sounds like a reasonable expectation if Lacy can’t go. Starks’ career 4.2 YPC sums up his uninspiring play, and Green Bay’s offense remains stuck, with their 5.1 yards per play only 24th in the league. Starks is an add if you need immediate help—the Packers’ schedule is favorable the next few weeks—but don’t pay as though he’s a league winner.
Jacquizz Rodgers (20% Yahoo, 26% ESPN)
Doug Martin is still out with a hamstring injury, and now Charles Sims is dead (I only drafted him everywhere, so this is fine). That led to Rodgers receiving 30 carries on Monday Night Football. Anything you can do to set up more Robert Aguayo field goal attempts, right?
Rodgers is a below average runner, but Dirk Koetter is another head coach hell-bent on getting fired by running a 1990s offense establishing the run, and Jameis Winston’s is proving to be untrustworthy off and on the field, so the rushing volume will be there. When Martin returns, possibly after their Week 6 bye, Rodgers will be relegated to sub duty and passing down work while retaining value as the oft-injured Martin’s handcuff.
Brian Hoyer (18% Yahoo, 17% ESPN)
Hoyer has completed 91/128 passes (71%) with 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions since taking over for Jay Cutler. Fire emoji. None of this will last—Hoyer has a career 59% completion percentage and 42-26 TD/INT ratio—but that doesn’t matter short term. He plays Jacksonville next week (allowing the 7th most points to opposing QBs) and Green Bay the following week (allowing 7.6 net yards/attempt, 3rd worst in the league). After that you’re dropping him (he gets Minnesota, then his bye), but the secretly terrible Hoyer will at least get you to the secretly terrible Halloween.
Marcus Mariota (47% Yahoo, 32% ESPN)
I touched on Mariota’s horrendous first month in the Week 5 defensive streaming column. TL;DR, Mariota’s sophomore season was going as well as my sophomore year of college, where I drank too much and my GPA plummeted despite an absolute cupcake matchup (i.e., a history major).
So Sunday’s 30.52 point, QB1 performance was quite the surprise. Was it a breakout? I don’t think one good week against an imploding Miami team (allowing the 4th most yards in the league) overcomes a bad month. Mariota hung 30+ a couple of times last year too, and let’s not let fantasy points cloud what really happened. Mariota had only 163 yards on 29 attempts; an Alex Smith line bandaged by 3 passing touchdowns. On the other hand, after averaging only 3.25 rushing attempts in his first 4 games, it was encouraging to see Mariota take 7 carries for 60 yards and a TD. The good news is we don’t’ have to figure out if this was real or make believe just yet, as Mariota faces Cleveland (allowing the 5th most points to opposing QBs) next and is startable in all leagues.
Orleans Darkwa (28% Yahoo, 28% ESPN)
Bobby Rainey (5% Yahoo, 4% ESPN)
Paul Perkins (2% Yahoo, 3% ESPN)
Nothing changed from my write-up last week, including the Giants’ offense remaining a total mess. Darkwa got the most carries but did nothing with them (9 yards on 7 carries). Rainey was the passing-game specialist (6 targets) and even added 5 carries, but the G-Men can’t be thrilled with how much dump off usage he’s getting. Paul Perkins existed (3 touches, 22 yards). The Giants’ backfield remains only borderline helpful until the master of disguise fixes his offense and/or Rashad Jennings returns.
Jay Ajayi (33% Yahoo, 48% ESPN)
Do we finally have some clarity in Miami’s backfield? Adam Gase acknowledged the 4-man rotation wasn’t working, and made Ajayi the “workhorse running back” in the absolute loosest sense of the term. Ajayi had 12 carries to Damien Williams/Kenyan Drake’s 3, going for 41 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee (allowing the 8th most YPC to opposing running backs). In a bad offense that can’t run the ball, with Arian Foster looming, Ajayi is a low end fill in.
Check Your Wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Theo Riddick had another 2 touchdown day and out-touched Zach Zenner 17-9. It’s his backfield until Dwayne Washington returns… if Derrick Henry was dropped in your league, it’s not a bad idea to grab him. He’s averaging 4.44 YPC in limited work (including 7 carries for 54 yards on Sunday); meanwhile, DeMarco Murray is on pace for 375 touches, most among running backs, and workload is the best predictor of injury… Mike Wallace has been quiet the past few weeks, but if Steve Smith Sr. misses time, Wallace would take back the leading receiver role… James White was more involved with Tom Brady back under center; his 11 opportunities was a season high. The real fun starts next week against Cincinnati, when the Patriots will need to try… Michael Thomas’s weekly targets: 6, 5, 11, 9. Tough schedule coming up, but he’ll avoid some of it running from the slot… Dontrelle Inman’s big Week 4 proved to be a blip, as Tyrell Williams was back in the Chargers’ 2nd WR role with a 6-5-117-1 line… Starting Arian Foster just to see him leave in the 1st half with a soft-tissue injury is a fantasy rite of passage. You’ll get that opportunity again soon; no one in Miami has taken that backfield
DEEPER LEAGUE PLAYS
(In no particular order.)
C.J. Anderson has not been playing well since Week 1; his snap count and touches continue to go down, as Devontae Booker earns a larger share.
Josh Ferguson didn’t do much on Sunday (only 13 yards on 5 opportunities), but still sits 2nd in targets to T.Y. Hilton. Robert Turbin, his primary competition behind Frank Gore, was a healthy scratch.
Jesse James is 3rd on the Steelers in targets, and though he’ll fall behind Le’Veon Bell soon, the Steelers have plenty of passing game volume (tied for 6th most attempts). More importantly, the 6’7” James remains an end zone threat. He’s getting 25% of the Steelers’ red zone targets (35.7% from inside the 10), and has converted those highly valuable opportunities into 3 touchdowns in 5 games.
I’m probably an idiot, but if the 49ers do go to Colin Kaepernick, I’m interested. He’s clearly never going to develop into a great thrower, but still has the arm to make big plays (Torrey Smith revival?) and more importantly, has a career 6.0 YPC. Blaine Gabbert already has 39 rushing attempts, and we’ve seen Chip Kelly do more with less.
Sticking with the 49ers, Jeremy Kerley is absolutely dominating targets with 45 through 5 games (Torrey Smith is next closest with 23). He’s been inefficient, as the whole passing game has been, but if 6 targets is the floor (as it has been thus far), that’s still pretty nice.
Adam Thielen blew up to the tune of 8-7-127-1 as Minnesota’s top receiver in Stefon Diggs’ absence. Cordarelle Patterson did things too, which is progress for him, and now has 6 targets in each of the last 2 games. Thielen>Patterson purely based on workload, but Diggs is still the only Viking receiver I really want. Minnesota’s 31.6 passing attempts/game is bottom 10 in the league, and doesn’t figure to change while the defense is taking souls like Shao Khan.
THAT DON’T IMPRESS ME MUCH
I honestly don’t know what to make of Davante Adams. The #32 receiver in points per game heading into Monday night, playing with an elite quarterback, with his bye week already behind him… all seems like a player worth owning. I just don’t think Adams is that good, and he remains the clear 3rd option in an offense that is still not fine. Basically, he should probably be owned but I’d rather someone else do it.
Brandon LaFell went off for 11-8-68-2. He’s now averaging 6.4 targets per game, and rookie Tyler Boyd still isn’t threatening his workload, but his whack-a-mole outbursts just aren’t that helpful. He’s scored under 5 points in 3 of his 5 games, and doesn’t have the track record to ever make him a smart play.
We joked when the Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman after a defensive apocalypse in Week 2. Then we joked that the firing actually worked, as the Bills racked off 3 straight wins. The truth is, the Bills have thrown for 89, 244, and 126 yards since firing Roman, and given the dearth of receiving talent, none of their passing game options are attractive starts on such low volume. Exhibit A: Last week Robert Woods had 7 catches for 89 yards; this week just 2 catches for 26 yards.
Zach Zenner had a golden opportunity to stake out more playing time, but did nothing on the ground, with just 9 yards on 7 carries. Get healthy, Dwayne Washington.
I haven’t talked much about Cole Beasley even though he’s having a nice year (36th among receivers in points per game, heading into Monday night). The reason is I assume he’s already owned in any league where he’s valuable (i.e., PPR leagues, especially anything deeper than). As the running game has gotten going and Dez Bryant’s return looms, I wouldn’t overact to Beasley’s 11.30 points (4-4-53-1) on Sunday. After getting 12 targets in Week 1, Beasley has just 5.25 targets per game since then (4 in each of his last 2 games).
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.