THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 9
November 1, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Halloween is in the rearview mirror, but if you had a good señora in high school Spanish, then you know we rolled right into another holiday, as today is Diá de Muertos. The Day of the Dead is the perfect holiday for fantasy football, Week 9. Especially if you drafted Keenan Allen, Adrian Peterson, Allen Robinson, or anyone associated with Brock freaking Osweiler. With 8 weeks in the books, we take today to remember and celebrate those teams who have passed on from this life. Vaya con dios, friends
For your teams that are still alive, this is a very interesting waiver wire week. Lots of tricky situations that, if we guessanalyze correctly, can set us up for the stretch run. As always, the focus is on players owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues.
PAY THE IRON PRICE
Robert Kelley (35% Yahoo, 23% ESPN )
You know when you’re dating someone and kind of feel like it’s not the right relationship, then they go out of town for a few days and you realize “hey, it’s pretty nice without them around.” Yeah… I don’t think Washington missed Matt Jones even a little.
Jones didn’t travel to London, leaving Kelley and Chris Thompson to split the workload. Kelley ran 21 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, which may not sound impressive, but he had some really nice runs and racked up yards after contact. Meanwhile, Jones has been an unreliable player throughout his short career, and this year scored nearly 60% of his points in 2 easy matchups (against Cleveland and Philadelphia, allowing the 4th and 5th most yards per attempt in the league, respectively).
Kelley only played 47% of the snaps and was out-targeted by Thompson 5-2, which could be a problem if Jones returns to split carries or if Washington falls behind in games. Still, Kelley looked great this preseason and carried it over into the regular season. I’d bet on him to keep the job after the bye. Thompson’s an add too in PPR leagues, but he offers less upside than Kelley.
Charcandrick West (9% Yahoo, 8% ESPN)
Spencer Ware is questionable for Sunday with a concussion, while Jamaal Charles is doubtful for the year after visiting James Andrews. For the Chiefs, it could be worse.
West is like yellow M&Ms. Clearly, you’d prefer the blue (Charles) or the green (Ware). But if yellow M&Ms are all that’s left, well, you’re still gonna have some. I’ve never been a huge West fan, but the Chiefs have trusted him with big workloads in the past, and he’s converted that into decent fantasy production (averaging nearly 11 fantasy points and 15 carries in 10 games last year following Charles’ injury). How much to invest depends on your short-term team needs. Given the dearth of other options, West could see lead back duties on Sunday (vs. Jacksonville, a middle-of-the-road run defense, though perhaps imploding team), and maybe beyond.
Check Your Wire (Players owned in <75% of leagues): Donte Moncrief returned from a shoulder injury and did what he always does with Andrew Luck, catching a touchdown. Even better, Moncrief didn’t appear limited, playing 89% of the Colts’ snaps… Mike Gillislee was everything you could want from a handcuff, running 12 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. Even if McCoy returns, Gillislee should be owned… It looks like Corey Coleman will make his return on Sunday. Very few guys with his upside left on waivers.
PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
J.J. Nelson (3% Yahoo, 1% ESPN)
Nelson’s 12-8-79-2 line (targets-catches-yards-touchdowns) is a bit deceptive. His first touchdown was a very, very blown coverage, and his 2nd (along with much of his production) came in garbage time. Still, there’s a lot to like about the speedster. Nelson played the most snaps of any Cardinal receiver, and is certainly the healthiest with Larry Fitzgerald (ankle), John Brown (sickle-cell), Michael Floyd (ineptitudehamstring), and Jaron Brown (torn ACL) all ailing. Investing in the Cardinals offense right now is as shaky as investing in Bluestar Airlines, and I think John Brown’s workload picks up again after the Cardinals’ bye, but Nelson has talent, opportunity, and fits with what Bruce Arians likes to do.
Dion Lewis (33% Yahoo, 28% ESPN)
Lewis began practicing last week, starting his 3-week window to be activated. This could still go bust, but find room to stash him.
James Starks (6% Yahoo, 13% ESPN)
The Packers decided 6 Knile Davis carries was enough, cutting him on Monday after trading for him just 2 weeks ago. This suggests either Starks is nearing a return or Green Bay hates the RB position more than fantasy players do.
I talked about Starks a few weeks ago. Basically, when you go out to a nice restaurant and order chicken, that’s Starks. You’ll get a nice meal; you won’t be wowed. But for fantasy football, 12-15 carries per game in a good offense makes Starks an RB2. And while the Packers offense has felt disappointing, they’re actually 4th in points per drive, meaning whoever their running back is will have scoring opportunities.
(With pseudo-RB Ty Montgomery out last week, Don Jackson received just 4 carries while playing 16% of Green Bay’s snaps. Move along.)
Peyton Barber (7% Yahoo, 4% ESPN)
Antone Smith (1% Yahoo, 0% ESPN)
So it turns out at 5’6” and 205 pounds, Jacquizz Rodgers couldn’t handle a 450-carry pace. He left Sunday’s game with a foot/ankle injury, and is almost certainly out Thursday against Atlanta.
As this surprising development sinks in, you may be wondering who takes his place. In your lineup, the answer is hopefully “no one.” If you’re desperate (and I do currently have a team with literally 0 healthy running backs, so I hear ya), I think it’s Barber. Am I worried that Smith out-snapped Barber 22 to 3 last weeks, and out-touched him 5 to 1? Am I worried Smith has a history with HC Dirk Koetter? Am I worried that asking yourself a series of questions to make a point is a tired gimmick? Yes to all. But Smith is a 31-year-old journeyman who’s never had more than 23 carries in a season. He’s a gadget player; I don’t see the Bucs trying to feed Smith the way they fed Rodgers. Both will be involved, but I like Barber to get more rushing attempts and the goal line work. With Smith, you’re praying for a long touchdown.
Eric Ebron (37% Yahoo, 28% ESPN)
Ebron looked good in his return on Sunday, catching 7 of 10 targets for 79 yards. He’s actually having a really strong season that’s flying under the radar, tallying at least 4 catches and 40 yards in each of his 5 games . He has only 1 touchdown, but has been unlucky in that department with a few called back on penalties, and he was a proficient red zone target in 2015. Despite the lack of touchdowns, Ebron is 10th among tight ends in points per game.
If you’re making a playoff push, Ebron might not be your guy. Over the next 4 weeks he plays Minnesota twice (hard to start him there) and has his bye (even harder). However, the schedule lightens up after that, as Ebron gets the Saints, Bears, Giants, and Cowboys in Weeks 13-16, making him a great target if you can get through the upcoming stretch.
Colin Kaepernick (7% Yahoo, 8% ESPN)
After missing much of the offseason and sitting on the bench to start the year, maybe the bye week gave Kaepernick time to get more ingrained with Chip Kelly’s offense and in sync with his receivers. Or maybe he’ll continue to suck, but it won’t matter because he’s going to run a ton and anything with the arm is a bonus. Smart money’s on the latter, but either way you can roll him out in a great matchup with the Saints on Sunday.
Alfred Morris (13% Yahoo, 16% ESPN)
Morris is on this list for 2 reasons. First, as the symbol for all handcuffs. I don’t handcuff to start the year, but at this point in the season it’s time to start locking in safety where there’s a viable backup. And as Darren McFadden showed last year, anyone behind Dallas’s o-line qualifies as viable.
The other reason to mention Morris is that the allegations of Ezekiel Elliott’s sexual assault popped back into the news last week. Sad but true: the NFL likes to underreact, then overreact to these types of issues. Coming off a major miss on the awful Josh Brown story, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL (or by proxy, the Cowboys) is more heavy-handed with Elliott even as validity of the allegations remains uncertain.
Check Your Wire (Players owned in <75% of leagues): Darren Sproles is 4’10”, 80 years old, and the workhorse back for the Philadelphia Eagles (20 touches, 103 yards Sunday night against Dallas)… DeMarco Murray’s toe appears ok, but make room for Derrick Henry anyway. Murray has the 2nd heaviest workload in the league, making him a big injury risk… Mohamed Sanu is in a good spot this week, coming off a nice game (10-9-84-1) with Julio Jones banged up (ankle) on a short week against Tampa Bay (allowing the 5th most points to opposing wide receivers)…Gut feeling, Duke Johnson Jr. is going to have a good 2nd half. The Browns’ line is banged up and Isaiah Crowell is slowing down, making short passes to Johnson their best bet at a running game. Johnson had 11.60 points on 10 touches on Sunday, giving him double-digit points 2 of his last 3… Jamison Crowder is WR16 in standard leagues after his 13-9-107-1 performance in London; his usage has ebbed and flowed (and his big game came with Cousins throwing 56 times), but I think he’s settled in as a WR3/Flex play… Count me among the Christine Michael truthers, but he has 4.0 YPC or worse in 4 straight games. I blame the o-line, but regardless, it may open the door for Thomas Rawls, inching closer to a return.
Don’t forget about the pu pu platter of running backs who were on bye last week: Paul Perkins, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, and Mike Davis. I talked about all of them last week, which was probably too many words to begin with, but rank them roughly in this order.
In PPR leagues, C.J. Prosise is interesting. A popular sleeper candidate before offseason injuries slowed him down, Prosise played 43% of the Seahawks’ snaps yesterday, and exceeded 100 yards on just 8 touches. Touchdowns may be hard to come by, but with Tom Cable yet to work his magic on that offensive line, Seattle may need to rely more on short passing to supplement its running.
Did a little part of the C.J. Anderson truther in me enjoy watching Devontae Booker struggle (just 54 yards on 19 carries) and get banged up against the Chargers? No, to be honest, it was a large part of me. But with CJA on injured reserve and Booker suffering through a shoulder injury, Kapri Bibbs could be next man up for the Kubiak running game. Juwan Thompson is also lurking, per usual.
Tyreek Hill is an interesting play coming off of his best game of the year (6-5-98-1). The uber-athletic receiver has a rushing attempt in 5 of 7 games and 4 touchdowns on the year; with the Chiefs short-handed at running back, Hill may get a few carries in addition to modest receiving work, giving him ample opportunity to break a big play.
Dontrelle Inman played 98% of San Diego’s snaps on Sunday, and really that’s his greatest asset: he’s present. The Chargers suffered another wide receiver injury (Travis Benjamin’s sprained PCL), giving Inman a chance to stay relevant.
With Tevin Coleman out, Terron Ward was Devonta Freeman’s backup, putting up a respectable 46 yards on 6 carries. At 5’7” and not particularly athletic, there isn’t a ton of upside here, but he’ll continue to get a handful of carries behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines while Coleman is out. Stevan Ridley was also signed, but didn’t play Sunday and looked beyond done last year with the Jets.
Mike Gillislee ran well with McCoy out, but is dealing with his own injuries. Jonathan Williams ran 5 times for 12 yards and a touchdown as Gillislee’s backup. It’s McCoy>>Gillislee>>>Williams, but if thrust into the starting role, the rookie out of Arkansas would get enough volume to make him an RB2.
Perhaps the scariest costume in Houston this weekend was a Brock Osweiler mask. C.J. Fiedorowicz has been the only player to survive Osweiler’s horror show, tallying no fewer than 7 targets over the last 4 weeks and reaching double-digit points in 2 of them. Houston’s on bye this week, but the Texans have a nice schedule the rest of the year, so CJF should hover around the TE15 range the rest of the year.
Lamar Miller played through his shoulder injury, but Alfred Blue was solid again in backup duty (9 carries, 41 yards).
Ladarius Green returned to practice, with Thanksgiving the target date for his return. The Steelers still lack a consistent 2nd threat behind Antonio Brown; Green could fill that void.
THAT DON’T IMPRESS ME MUCH
After tallying 84 yards and a touchdown on Thursday, Kendall Wright now has over 15 fantasy points 2 of the past 3 weeks. It’s all very hard to trust—Wright played only 42% of the Titans’ snaps in that span, and he’s scored under 1.50 points in his other 3 games this year. Until his playing time goes up, I’m not interested.
Tim Hightower won many fantasy leagues last year, and showed it again on Sunday after Mark Ingram was benched early for fumbling. And by “it,” I mean horribly inefficient running masked by volume. Hightower’s 26 carries for 102 yards (3.9 YPC) looked a lot like his 84 carries for 237 yards (2.6 YPC) in Weeks 13-16 last year. Hightower is reportedly set to get more work, but until “more”=”all,” Hightower’s only use is as a handcuff.
I still like Quincy Enunwa—93 yards on Sunday in Cleveland, including an awesome touchdown that showed off his brute strength. But even Browns fans accustomed to some bad quarterback play over the years were surprised by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s brand of suck. Hard to use Enunwa until the Jets passing game gets back on track, probably sometime in 2019 or 2020.
Second good game in a row for Seth Roberts has us interested, right? Meh, 7 targets is nice, but Carr threw it 59 (!) times. That’s a ton for the Raiders, and Cooper/Crabtree (combined 31 targets) continue to hover just below 50% market share.
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.