Week 15 Deep Lineup Considerations

Updated: December 14th 2017

We are in that time of year where lineup decisions might literally determine if you win a championship or not.  Many teams need help finding replacements for flex spots due to a variety of reasons including injuries.  Below you will find a list of names which provides deep starting options and likely have not been consistently used for your RSO team throughout the year.   None of these players are “league winners” but each has good matchups over the next two weeks and the opportunity to be a quality start for your desperate team.

Quarterback

Blake Bortles

The game plan worked very well in Jacksonville this season with the team primarily relying on their defense and emphasizing running the ball to minimize Bortles’ involvement.  The results have been solid as Bortles improved across the board this season compared to last year’s debacle.  He played very well the last two weeks, albeit against a Seattle defense decimated by injuries on the backend and an awful Indianapolis pass defense.  Bortles also gets nice matchups against a beat-up Houston defense and San Francisco in weeks 15 and 16.

We should still proceed with caution using the Jaguars QB.  He is still a bottom half of the league starter in the NFL.  The Jaguars rank only 24th in pass attempts and Bortles only has two games with 300+ yards passing (both against the Indianapolis Colts) and three games with multiple passing touchdowns.  Jacksonville will continue limiting Bortles’ throws and game script against teams with a combined 7 wins over the next two weeks might force the volume even lower.  Do not expect Bortles to carry your RSO team to a championship but he can be a useful piece for those suffering a late injury at QB or needing help in a superflex league.

Joe Flacco

Flacco is a pure schedule target for those in need of a desperation second quarterback play.  Baltimore plays Cleveland and Indianapolis the final two weeks which is the softest remaining schedule for any passing offense.  While Flacco has played better the past two weeks, do not go overboard here as you likely have better streaming options available.  Flacco has been among the worst quarterbacks in the league this season ranking 33rd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, 29th in ESPN’s QBR, and dead last in yards per attempt among qualified quarterbacks.  He also does not receive the necessary passing volume to make up for his abysmal inefficiency.

Running Back

Mike Davis

Davis assumed primary back duties for the Seattle Seahawks gathering at least 16 touches and 65 yards in each of the last two games.  He looks to extend his solid play in plus matchups versus the Rams and Cowboys over the next two weeks.  You certainly could do worse than the primary running back on a Russell Wilson-led team in your flex.  Be sure to keep an eye on the injury report to confirm Davis’ availability.

Kerwynn Williams

Another starter emerging over the last two weeks is Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams.  He amassed at least 16 touches and 88 yards each of the last two games.  The remaining contests should be competitive as Arizona plays two teams, Washington and New York, with 5 or less wins each.  The Redskins and Giants have also both struggled against the run this season.  The Cardinals have no reason to rush Adrian Peterson back from a neck injury with Arizona almost certainly out of the playoffs.

Wide Receiver

Mike Wallace

See the upcoming schedule for Baltimore above in the Joe Flacco section.  This is a juicy finish for Wallace as the Cleveland and Indianapolis pass defenses are in shambles.  Wallace has also seen more consistent usage over the last five weeks including more downfield throws from Flacco.  Feel somewhat confident (at least as confident as you can with Flacco at quarterback) firing up Wallace in your flex spot.

Dede Westbrook

Westbrook fell in the NFL draft to the 4th round primarily due to character concerns after an explosive senior season.  He then suffered a core injury which prevented him from seeing the field until the second half of the year.  Westbrook quietly produced good results since his return averaging 5 catches and over 8 targets per game in four contests.  Game script could hurt volume against two bottom-end teams (see above) but Westbrook is a solid start going forward (even with Bortles at quarterback and the Jags run-heavy script).

Travis Benjamin

Sometimes you simply want to take gambles on top offenses.  Right now consider the Chargers Phillip Rivers-led passing attack among the top offenses.  Rivers threw for over 300 yards in three straight games and has not thrown an interception for five weeks.  The Chargers also get pass-deficient defenses in Kansas City and the New York Jets coming up.  Volume remains an issue for Benjamin as trying to figure out who receives significant targets (if anyone) outside of Keenan Allen remains a mystery on a weekly basis for San Diego.  Benjamin represents an extremely fast boom-bust player for those in need of a big week out of your flex spot and is someone possibly available on your waiver wire.

Tight End

Jared Cook

The tight end position remains a maddeningly inconsistent group for fantasy purposes with many questionable options.  Oakland’s Jared Cook qualifies as one of the few tight ends receiving consistent usage having garnered at least 5 targets in all but one game this season.  The athletic tight end finishes the fantasy season with Dallas and Philadelphia, two exploitable matchups for tight ends.  Game script likely dictates Oakland throwing a bunch in these contests.  Cook is 6th in receiving yards at the position and a solid start moving forward.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Early 2018 NFL Free Agency Look

Updated: November 30th 2017

Week 13 is an important point for RSO GMs out there.  The fantasy regular season ends in most leagues along with the ability to extend players on your roster if using the new contract extension option.  Most teams have a good idea of where they stand heading into the playoffs.  It is never too early to start looking at next season for contenders and those out of the hunt alike.  I take an early view at some of the most fantasy relevant players with contracts ending this year.  This is not an exhaustive list as some players will sign early and others will be cut prior to free agency but it is still useful to view potentially significant changes which we should keep our eye out for.

*Free Agent Listings from Spotrac

Quarterbacks

Top Free Agents:  Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo

The quarterback position might provide us with some very interesting changes next offseason.  A number of high-profile players including future hall of famer Drew Brees, perpetually tagged Kirk Cousins, and recently traded Jimmy Garoppolo possibly hit free agency in 2018.  Garoppolo almost certainly stays in San Francisco after the 49ers gave up a likely early second round pick to New England for his services.  My sense is that Cousins moves on from Washington.  Neither Washington nor Cousins seems completely sold on one another having failed on multiple occasions to get a long-term contract done.  I would be looking to sell Cousins in my RSO league.  He is unlikely to land on a team with such a QB-friendly offensive scheme which fits his skill-set so well.  Brees likely remains in New Orleans.  The Saints finally devised a competent defense to go along with the high-powered offense and have the personnel to get deep in the playoffs for Brees’ final years.

There are a number of other interesting locations with possible openings next season to keep your eye on.  The Minnesota trio of Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, and Case Keenum all are free agents next year and I doubt anyone, including those in the Vikings organization, has a firm grasp on who of the trio remains.  Miami also might head in a new direction.  Ryan Tannehill, coming off a knee surgery, has shown little to suggest he is the long-term answer and has a contract which provides an easy out without a big cap hit. Jay Cutler is probably a one-year rental.  Denver does not appear to have the starting quarterback on the roster.  First round pick Paxton Lynch looks like a bust after failing to beat out backup-level talent Trevor Siemian for the starting spot in multiple seasons.  Arizona is another team who could be in the market for a quarterback if Carson Palmer retires following the year.

Running Backs

Top Free Agents:  LeVeon Bell, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, Isaiah Crowell

The cupboard is not as full for quality NFL backs next offseason.  Bell is in a different league than the others on this list but probably stays in Pittsburg even at the cost of another franchise tag.  Hyde, Hill, and Crowell have all displayed the ability to be a solid lead back as part of a committee.  None possesses a true three-down skill-set.  They each have shown the ability to catch the occasional dump off or screen pass and handle pass-protection duties but no one will confuse them with dynamic route runners out of the backfield who an offensive coordinator actively tries to get involved in the passing game.

As usual, the New England backfield remains a mystery.  Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead assumed big roles this year but are free agents while recent acquisition Mike Gillislee was recently left off the active roster and can be cut without a cap hit.  Minnesota’s Jerick McKinnon showed off some impressive playmaking ability at times this year and should provide a quality compliment to a new team with Dalvin Cook returning.  We should also note this might be the last season for Frank Gore who is still churning out yards for Indianapolis at the age of 34.

Wide Receivers

Top Free Agents:  Alshon Jeffery, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry

The wide receiver class, on the other hand, is absolutely loaded with top-end talent.  Alshon Jeffery, currently 25th all-time in receiving yards per game, is on pace for another solid campaign.  His best move is signing a long-term deal in Philadelphia with ascending quarterback, Carson Wentz, but may wish to test the market after betting on himself with a one-year deal this past year as a free agent.  Sammy Watkins hits free agency after an injury-filled stint in Buffalo in which the Bills failed to use the 5th year option on him.  Watkins, one of the more efficient receivers in the NFL, owns a big 16.3 yards per reception and over 9 yards per target average over his career.  Allen Robinson has a 1,400 yard / 14 touchdown season to his credit but injuries, Blake Bortles at quarterback, and consistency issues have limited Robinson’s overall effectiveness.  A franchise tag is certainly possible for Robinson who might not want to sign a reduced rate long-term deal coming off a lost season to an ACL tear.  Jarvis Landry amassed 363 receptions already in his four-year career but is likely headed to free agency.  Miami does not seem inclined to pay Landry big money with Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker already signed through next season.  Landry might be disappointed in the free agent market as few teams utilize the slot receiver as extensively as Miami does and thus might not place a big priority on Landry.

There are a number of other notable free agents who also might be available.  Green Bay Packer Devante Adams is in the last year of his rookie deal.  Fellow Jacksonville 2nd round pick, Marqise Lee also belongs to next year’s free agent class and Allen Hurns could be cut with no cap consequences.  Seattle Seahawk Paul Richardson consistently flashed big play potential but is given limited opportunities in the Seahawk passing attack.  Mike Wallace and Eric Decker could provide veteran leadership to new teams after spending time with quarterbacks who struggled throwing the ball.  Most of the Arizona wide receiver core could be gone next year if Larry Fitzgerald retires.

Tight Ends

Top Free Agents:  Jimmy Graham, Tyler Eifert

NFL free agency rarely sees quality tight ends hit the free agent market.   There are few special players at the position and those are usually locked up with long-term deals.  This year is not an exception.  A 31 year old Jimmy Graham has the chance to hit free agency for the first time.  Graham is not the same player after returning from a devastating knee agency, lacking the rare speed and explosion he once possessed. A somewhat diminished Jimmy Graham is still better than the majority of tight ends in the league however.  He is still virtually unguardable in short areas with a big frame, powerful hands, and smooth athleticism that comes from a former basketball player.  Former first round pick Tyler Eifert joins Graham in headlining the tight end class.  Eifert’s early career has been marred by injuries throughout with Tyler playing only 2 games this season before a back injury finished his season.  Like Graham, Eifert is a very athletic weapon in the passing game.  Despite his injury history, the Bengal tight end should find multiple suitors bidding for his services.

We finish the article with the likely retirement of San Diego Charger Antonio Gates following the season as his contract finishes this year.  Gates has played all 15 years of his career with Chargers, is the all-time touchdown leader among tight ends, and a no doubt future hall of famer.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Week 11 SOS Targets

Updated: November 16th 2017

With the fantasy regular season nearing the end in most RSO leagues, owners with competitive teams need to begin thinking about reinforcing their squads for the final push into the playoffs.  Below I lay out some NFL teams with particularly favorable offensive schedules for the rest of season (ROS*).  Not all teams have notably great offenses, but RSO owners should at least entertain obtaining certain players from each team based on the schedule ahead.

*Rest of Season Rankings obtained from Sharp Football Stats for weeks 11-16.

Hold Your Nose

Buffalo Bills (LAC, KC, NE, IND, MIA, NE)

ROS Pass Rank: 1         ROS Rushing Rank: 1

No team has a softer fantasy schedule going forward than the Buffalo Bills.  The remaining schedule includes no opponent better than the 17th ranked rush defense and five games against 22nd ranked or lower pass defenses.  The end-of-season schedule is especially juicy with 25th or lower ranked pass defenses in each game for weeks 13 through 16. Running Back LeSean McCoy makes for an intriguing buy-low to end the year, particularly after Buffalo’s week 10 disaster against New Orleans.

One must keep expectations under control though, especially on the passing front.  This is still a team with Tyrod Taylor* at QB which is ranked 31st in pass attempts, 30th in yards, and 24th in yards per attempt despite playing against one of the softest passing schedules so far.  It is difficult to trust any Bills receiver going forward with the Bills getting tight end Charles Clay back and adding Kelvin Benjamin to a low-volume passing attack.  Buffalo will continue as a run dominated offense as much as possible although a defense which has imploded over the last month may alter the equation somewhat.

*Taylor was benched for rookie Nathan Peterman.  Peterman is worth a speculative add in 2QB leagues based on the upcoming schedule but with low expectations.  He is a virtual unknown at this stage.  The outlook does not change much for Buffalo receivers given the limited passing production with Taylor at quarterback.  The lack of Taylor’s rushing threat hurts McCoy’s rushing expectations slightly.

Denver Broncos (CIN, OAK, MIA, NYJ, IND, WAS)

ROS Pass Rank: 2         ROS Rushing Rank: 16

I feel kind of queasy even mentioning the Brock Osweiler-led Denver Broncos here. Osweiler, while playing better last week, is not an option in anything but the deepest of superflex/2QB leagues.  The running backs are avoids right now as the Broncos have gone with a full blown three-man committee recently.  With that being said, one must at least give consideration to a part of the passing game that features matchups against the Raiders, Dolphins, Jets, and Colts in consecutive weeks.  This means taking a look at Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in your league.  You could very well get each at a big discount with Osweiler currently starting and loads of uncertainty at the quarterback position going forward.

Good Bets

Oakland Raiders (NE, DEN, NYG, KC, DAL, PHI)

ROS Pass Rank: 8         ROS Rushing Rank: 5

The remaining schedule sets up nicely for Oakland’s passing game on the volume end.  The Raiders figure to be an underdog against many high scoring opponents who struggle against the pass.  Even the vaunted Broncos defense no longer looks as dominant as prior years.  While Denver locks down wide receivers, they have struggled covering running backs and tight ends in the passing game.  You likely will not want to get to involved in an Oakland three-way committee in the backfield that figures to trail a lot but Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Jared Cook are all solid starts for most of the season going forward.

Los Angeles Chargers (BUF, DAL, CLE, WAS, KC, NYJ)

ROS Pass Rank: 4         ROS Rushing Rank: 7

This is one of the safest groups for fantasy purposes going forward without the upside of some other offenses.  Phillip Rivers threw for at least two touchdowns or 250 yards in all but two games this season.  Wide receiver Keenan Allen averages nearly nine targets per game.  Running back Melvin Gordon accumulated less than 15 touches in a game just once this season.

The schedule is a nice blend of good matchups for both the pass and run games mixed with almost no “avoid” contests.  The Chargers project competitively in most games going forward which should help maintain a balanced offensive approach.  Phillip Rivers also targets running backs extensively which maintains their value when the run game is not working well and during stretches where Los Angeles falls behind.  Rivers, Allen, and Gordon make for quality trade targets with the remaining schedule.

Pay Up

Kansas City (NYG, BUF, NYJ, OAK, LAC, MIA)

ROS Pass Rank: 3         ROS Rushing Rank: 2

Kansas City surprisingly possesses one of the top fantasy units in the NFL.  Quarterback Alex Smith, running back Kareem Hunt, and tight end Travis Kelce are all top-five scorers so far and wide receiver Tyreek Hill is a top-10 performer.  This wealth of fantasy goodness largely is the result of an unlikely season in which Smith projects for career bests in virtually every major passing category.

Look for the good times to continue as the season finishes.  This could easily look like the best fantasy schedule at the end of the year.  The remaining slate is filled with sub-.500 teams giving up big yardage totals in both the passing and run games.  Kansas City also figures to be the favorite against each opponent moving forward.  Feel confident making offers for every significant Kansas City player.

New England Patriots (OAK, MIA, BUF, MIA, PIT, BUF)

ROS Pass Rank: 5         ROS Rushing Rank: 3

This one is almost too obvious.  The NFL’s passing yardage leader, Tom Brady, gets four intra-division games with two matchups against an imploding Buffalo Bills defense and another two against a Miami defense which can not cover the pass.  Adding in next week’s game against Oakland’s bottom ranked defense cements the Patriots great outlook.  Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receiver Brandin Cooks are all worth the heavy price needed to acquire with huge weeks possible ahead.

The New England backfield, on the other hand, has “too many cooks in the kitchen”.  Dion Lewis took control of the rushing work from Mike Gillislee with 11 to 15 carries in each of the last four games but only three receptions over that time.  James White remains a significant receiving threat on passing downs.  Rex Burkhead received more work each game so far taking touches away from both Lewis and White.  The value from Patriots’ backs comes primarily from the touchdown potential and receiving game work but trying to figure out who will get that production on a given week could be frustrating.  They are all worth speculative adds in this offense but depending on any to regularly start will be problematic.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1

NFL Trade Deadline Moves

Updated: November 2nd 2017

The NFL trade deadline usually produces as much excitement as eating tuna fish out of the can for lunch. Early trade deadline date, hard salary cap, and rules curbing trades for cap space tend to limit the amount and scale of trades which occur.  This year saw the most action on the trade front in years.  I take a look at some of the most fantasy relevant trades that potentially impact your RSO teams.

The NFL trade deadline usually produces as much excitement as eating tuna fish out of the can for lunch. Early trade deadline date, hard salary cap, and rules curbing trades for cap space tend to limit the amount and scale of trades which occur.  This year saw the most action on the trade front in years.  I take a look at some of the most fantasy relevant trades that potentially impact your RSO teams.

Jay Ajayi

Philadelphia receives RB Jay Ajayi

Miami receives 2018 4th Round Draft Pick

Miami head coach Adam Gase clearly was not happy with the offensive performance of the Dolphins this season giving an epic post-game tirade following the 40-0 beat down against Baltimore.  The shakeup starts with Miami moving Ajayi to Philadelphia.  What does Philadelphia get with AJayi?   They obtain a player who forced more missed tackles over the last two seasons than any other running back in the NFL.  It is a low-risk move for a player on a cheap 5th round rookie contract that runs through the 2018 season giving up only a likely late fourth round pick.  The move is somewhat odd in that Ajayi joins a crowded backfield including LeGarrette Blount (who is quietly having a very productive season), Wendell Smallwood, and Corey Clement on a team which has never really featured a running back under head coach Doug Pederson instead relying on a committee approach.

What does this mean for Ajayi?  The third year pro’s situation improves drastically moving from the lowest scoring team in the league with one of the worst offensive lines to one of the highest scoring teams in the NFL with the best record so far.  Philadelphia Ajayi’s role this season seems questionable given the depth in the backfield and lack of traditional “workhorse” role on the Eagles but the upside is tremendous on a high-powered offense if he were to assume a primary role.  His longer-term prospects look good on a solid team led by an ascending quarterback.  This move correspondingly reduces Blount’s value to minimal at best.

Also remember Ajayi’s likely replacements in Miami, Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake.  While neither is a priority in shallow leagues on this low-scoring offense, any potential starting running back has some value in deeper RSO leagues.

Jimmy Garoppolo

San Francisco receives QB Jimmy Garoppolo

New England receives 2018 2nd Round Draft Pick

In another interesting trade, San Francisco presumably gets their quarterback of the future in exchange for an early second round pick.  The move gives San Francisco a lot of flexibility in next year’s draft, including potentially setting up the 49ers to receive a ransom in draft capital in exchange for one of the top picks in the first round.  New England receives one of the most valuable picks in the entire draft on a cost-benefit basis with the high second pick.  One must wonder if New England maximized Garoppolo’s trade value if earlier reports from this offseason were true about teams making first round-plus offers but it is still solid value for a player of no immediate use on an expiring contract.  The Patriots are clearly committed to Brady for the near future with no backup plan for the future.

Garoppolo was originally a second round pick by New England and has performed superbly in his professional appearances so far, albeit in a very limited sample size.  He goes to a team with one of the most highly-thought-of offensive minds in the game, Kyle Shanahan, leading them.  The trade also imparts risk on Garoppolo though.  He almost certainly would have received a large contract this offseason based on very limited work in the NFL.  Garoppolo might receive substantially less from San Francisco or in free agency if his performance in the last portion of the season does not meet expectations.  This is a move that could go very poorly for the 49ers.  San Francisco gave up a premium draft pick on a team going nowhere this year for a player in the final year of his contract.  This move potentially looks very foolish in the offseason if the 49ers a) do not sign Garoppolo or b) are forced to franchise tag him at high costs (see the ongoing Kirk Cousins saga).

Garoppolo holds little value in RSO leagues this season with a difficult schedule to finish the season and likely not assuming starting duties until after San Francisco’s bye in week 12.

Kelvin Benjamin

Buffalo receives WR Kelvin Benjamin

Carolina receives 2018 3rd Round Draft Pick and 2018 7th Round Draft Pick

It has been one strange season for the Buffalo Bills.  In what many considered a rebuilding year, the Bills find themselves at 5-2 just behind the New England Patriots for first place in the AFC East.  The roster makeover at wide receiver continues with the addition of Benjamin after Buffalo traded for WR Jordan Matthews in the preseason and trading away former 1st round WR Sammy Watkins prior to that.

This is not a good move fantasy-wise for the hulking receiver this season.  Benjamin goes from a team with the 10th most passing attempts to the one with least attempts in the entire NFL.  Even the most targeted wide receiver in Buffalo has little fantasy value on a run-first offense.  What value there is in the passing game is centered on the running backs and tight ends where running back LeSean McCoy leads the team in targets and receptions almost doubling the next leading receiver, tight end Charles Clay, who has been out of action for weeks.  Jordan Matthews’ limited fantasy value is gone in all but the deepest of leagues with the arrival of Benjamin.  Charles Clay gets bumped down.  Tyrod Taylor is likely the only fantasy relevant player helped with this trade.

Duane Brown

Seattle receives OT Duane Brown and 2018 5th Round Draft Pick

Houston receives 2018 3rd Round Draft Pick and 2019 2nd Round Draft Pick*

Seattle bolsters their offensive line with left tackle Duane Brown after seeing him first-hand this past weekend.  Brown is a massive upgrade at left tackle for the Seahawks, replacing PFF’s worst graded tackle on one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.   The move tremendously helps Russell Wilson and also potentially upgrades the Seattle run game.  Quality, blind-side tackles rarely become available because there are so few in the league.  The steep price could be well worth the cost to Seattle if they address Brown’s contract issues.

Brown’s contract demands, for which he sat out the first six weeks in the season and were never addressed by the Texans, and his resentment toward Houston’s owner eventually led to the trade.  The Texans received fair value for a player who clearly was not excited about staying in Houston.  The loss of a premium left tackle will be felt, especially by a developing young quarterback, but is somewhat mitigated Deshaun Watson’s mobility out of the pocket.

*Note this trade originally included CB Jeremy Lane who reportedly failed a physical.

A.J. McCarron

In a trade that failed to go through, the Cincinnati Bengals agreed to trade A.J. McCarron to the Cleveland Browns.  Unfortunately the Browns, as only the Browns could do, failed in reporting the trade to the NFL office by the trade deadline.  McCarron is left as a backup in Cincinnati and Cleveland continues to make even the most basic NFL mechanisms look difficult.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Rounding Out the Lineup: Week 7

Updated: October 19th 2017

Most of us in competitive RSO league are not great at every position.  The nature of salary cap leagues forces many teams into gambles which might not have paid off.   Below you will find a few trade targets for competitive teams along with their current points per game ranking in PPR leagues who might shore up those RB2/WR2 and deeper flex spot gaps which did not pan out so far.  There are a variety of floor plays and ceiling gambles at various price points.  I would not consider these players “league winners” but all have the chance of helping your team going forward.

Running Backs

Doug Martin RB16 – Some questioned Doug Martin’s role once inserted into the lineup.  Martin has out-attempted Jacquizz Rodgers 13-3 and 14-3 in the two games since his return from suspension scoring once per game in the process.  This is clearly Martin’s backfield in the run game.  Charles Sims remains a fixture on passing downs with 5 and 4 receptions in the two games since Martin’s return compared to 1 in each game for Martin.  Sims’ role severely caps Martin’s work in the receiving game which will make for some limited fantasy outputs when Martin does not score.

On the plus side, there should be somewhat consistent scoring opportunities in Tampa Bay from Football Outsider’s 8th ranked passing unit.  Martin makes for a nice RB2 on those teams in need of running back help. His limited work so far might present an opportunity to pick up Martin.  He is also an attractive option on teams with limited RSO salary cap space to maneuver with as his suspension to start the year likely lowered his salary in many leagues.

Duke Johnson RB17 – The environment in Cleveland is not pretty.  The team is 0-6 with one of the worst offenses and defenses in the league and an uncertain, at best, quarterback outlook.   This is generally not the type of situation I am looking for when investing in running backs.

Duke Johnson has a few items working in his favor, however, when examining his rest-of-season outlook.  Cleveland already lost the top two wide receivers heading into the season to injury.  Johnson remains as the de facto WR1 currently leading the Browns in receiving targets, receptions, and yards.  He has at least three receptions in all but one game this season and accumulated at least 53 receptions each of his first two seasons.  Johnson fills the needs of RSO teams looking for solid floor plays out of the flex spot or RB injury/bye weeks.  He also provides some upside as a handcuff to fellow Browns’ running back Isaiah Crowell or if CLE decides to give Johnson more work do to Crowell’s ineffectiveness.

Jay Ajayi RB35 – No other running back on this list supplies more variance on a given week than Miami running back Jay Ajayi.  The “boom” portion comes largely from his enormous weekly rushing potential.  Ajayi produced an amazing three 200+ yard rushing performances in 2016.  He already has three games of 25 or more rushing attempts in 2017 and averages over 20 attempts per game.  The “bust” potential stems primarily from Ajayi’s lack of receiving game effectiveness.  The Dolphin running back averages only 1.7 receptions and 8.7 receiving yards per game over the last two years highlighted by a comically bad 3.3 yards per reception this season in which Ajayi has not managed a single game with at least 10 receiving yards.

If you are a gambling person, Ajayi imparts perhaps the highest ceiling option on this list of players.  He is the only player in the NFL with 100 or more rushing attempts and zero touchdowns.  Jay Cutler has been ugly so far but the Miami passing game could improve considering how late Cutler joined the Dolphins.  Positive touchdown regression could very well be on the horizon for Ajayi.  The defense also played well enough to keep Miami in games despite the offensive woes.  Consider him a high variance RB2 going forward.  Ajayi likely went for a costly salary if he was in your RSO free agent auction this year so fitting him under your cap could be an issue but teams might be more open to a trade because of that high salary.

Wide Receivers

Pierre Garcon WR24 – I believe if you told most people you could get the 6th ranked wide receiver in targets plus the 8th in receptions and yardage for minimal cost, they would jump at the chance.  Such is the case with San Francisco wide receiver Pierre Garcon.  Garcon’s zero touchdowns lower his fantasy output so far which could give you the ability to pounce.  The volatile quarterback situation with rookie C.J. Beathard taking over for Brian Hoyer certainly carries some risk but Garcon is the only established NFL receiver on the roster.  Garcon is a very tempting target for your flex spot who likely comes at a sharp discount especially with a rookie quarterback taking the helm.

Danny Amendola WR28 – Amendola filled the small slot receiver role in the New England offense beautifully so far looking extremely quick, getting open at will, and catching everything.  Amendola’s per game targets are right in line with the leading non-Gronk Patriot receivers with at least 3 receptions, 5 targets and 40 yards in each game this season.  Injuries are always a concern for smaller players with heavy workloads over the middle of the field, especially for a player who missed games in all but two seasons in the NFL.  Amendola likely was picked up on waivers in your league which should make for a very cheap way to get your hands on a piece of the high-powered New England offense.  He is a nice floor play for those in need of reliable points out of their flex spot.

Sterling Shepard WR37 – The Giants pulled players from the practice squad and off the street to fill starting receiver slots last week after New York lost Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Harris, and Shepard to injury.  Shepard should return shortly but the others are lost for the year leaving Shepard with a golden opportunity for a big work load.  There is some danger going forward with regards to workload.  Head coach Ben McAdoo gave up play-calling duties last week resulting in the Giants completely flipping the script on the pass-heavy offense, going with 32 carries to only 19 passes.  With that said, Shepard is the only wide receiver on the roster with significant past production and figures to dominate targets along with rookie tight end Evan Engram.  I would feel very confident with Shepard in my flex when he returns and WR2 production is entirely possible.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

The Unexpected: Week 5

Updated: October 5th 2017

There are always surprises at the start of the NFL season, some of which may be sustainable through the year while others likely are not.  Determining if your player’s good start is something which will continue may be the difference in figuring out if your team is a true contender or possibly making a poor trade.  With four weeks of the NFL season already in the books, we can start to look at trends and get some idea of different players’ usage going forward.

Quarterbacks

Alex Smith QB2 – Smith rocketed out of the gates with a 4-touchdown thrashing of New England in week 1.  The Kansas City starter made few mistakes since.  Smith leads the NFL in passer rating and completion percentage while pacing the Chiefs to the only undefeated record remaining.  He has been nothing short of great so far throwing for 8 touchdowns with 0 interceptions.

Moving forward – While I foresee continued solid play from Smith, do not expect this production to remain.  The usage is very much in line with recent history, currently tied for 18th in attempts, but his rates are not.  His current 76% completion rate leads the all-time NFL season mark (Sam Bradford 2016) by more than 4 points.  The 8.8 yards per attempt is 1.4 more than any Smith season in Kansas City.  Look for solid QB2 numbers going forward and a quality weekly streaming option.

Jared Goff QB10 – What a difference environment can make.  The second year starter went from a historically bad rookie season to the current leading passer in yards per attempt and third ranked quarterback in passer rating. The additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan transformed one of the worst lines in football last year benefitting both the run and pass game.  The Rams also brought in a host of new receiving options for Goff including Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods in free agency plus Cooper Kupp in the draft.  Most importantly Los Angeles brought in 30 year old head coach Sean McVay to completely revamp the offensive scheme.  Goff’s throws became far more manageable this season including increased check downs to Todd Gurley out of the backfield and more open throws throughout the field.

Moving forward – The schedule could become much more difficult over the rest of season with few matchups for which I would be thrilled about for Goff and the Rams.  Goff only ranks 22nd in passing attempts over the season and provides nothing as a rusher to fall back on.  I would not count on Goff as my starter in RSO leagues.  I am more likely to try and capitalize on the hot start with a trade or continue stashing Goff if I drafted him as a cheap backup/streaming option.

Running Backs

Kareem Hunt RB2 – No rookie started out hotter than Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt.  Hunt leads the NFL in rushing yards by nearly 40% over the next player (Todd Gurley) thanks to an enormous 7.4 yards per attempt to start the season.  The rookie also displayed significant receiving ability catching 13 balls for a robust 12.1 yards per reception.

Moving forward – Hunt should remain a locked in RB1 throughout the year.  Kansas City should be competitive throughout the season, he shows off impressive lower body strength to power through tacklers, and enough burst to turn open lanes and bad tackling angles into big plays.  He is also heavily involved in the passing game.  The KC offensive line has consistently opened up huge holes for Hunt this season as well.  He is a set and forget player at this point.

Chris Thompson RB6 – Perhaps no player has done more with less than Washington running back Chris Thompson.  Thompson owns a hefty 7.1 rushing yards per attempt over 20 carries in addition to a huge 16.8 yards per reception for 14 catches which combine to a massive 11 yards per touch.  The Washington passing down back also contributed four touchdowns so far.

Moving forward – Thompson is a really good player but anywhere near this level of production is unsustainable.  He averages less than 9 touches per game and that is unlikely to improve much with a load of offensive weapons to choose from in Washington and a quarterback who generally spreads the ball around.  Thompson is nothing more than a flex play in deeper leagues.  Sell if you can get anything of significance for him.

Wide Receivers

Stephon Diggs WR1 / Adam Thielen WR13 – The Minnesota receivers find themselves ranked well above preseason expectations so far.  Each is top-3 in receiving yardage and Diggs has scored four times already.  Case Keenum has been surprisingly solid in Sam Bradford’s absence and the two Vikings own a very large target share of the offense.  Both accumulated 32 targets, double the next most targeted player on the team.  Tight end Kyle Rudolph has reverted to the low volume, low yardage receiver we saw most of his career without Bradford and with an improved offensive line.

Moving forward – There are a lot of questions going forward for two high volume players.  It is fair to wonder how the loss of rookie sensation Dalvin Cook will affect these receivers and the offense as a whole.  Will the Latavius Murray/Jerrick McKinnon combo provide enough in the run game to open up deeper route combinations?  Will Rudolph gain a larger target share with the return of Bradford?  What does Michael Floyd, who reportedly had a superb training camp and likely replaces inconsequential former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, bring to the table? The questions have me downgrading both slightly going forward.  Diggs remains a must-start player for me but I am looking at Thielen as more of a flex play going forward.

Chris Hogan WR10 – The former Bill performed well so far in his time in New England providing a nice downfield threat with reliable hands.  Hogan has been on the plus side of the touchdown equation scoring four times this season in the high powered New England offense and is tied for second in targets on the team.  He remains a reliable target for Tom Brady on a team with many injuries at wide receiver.

Moving forward – Hogan will have a big role in the offense but will be a volatile weekly play with likely touchdown regression coming.  With plenty of quality receiving options available for the Patriots including Gronkowski, Cooks, Amendola, and White; consider Hogan more of a borderline WR2/WR3 going forward.

Tight Ends

Charles Clay TE4 – Clay was one of my featured streaming options going into the season.  Buffalo ended up trading away the talented Sammy Watkins to the Rams and trading for Jordan Matthews before the season started.  With speedster Marquise Goodwin moving on Clay became Tyrod Taylor’s only significant returning target left outside of running back Lesean McCoy.  Matthews immediately suffered a chest injury further delaying his familiarity with Taylor which focused more of the offense through Clay early in the season.

Moving forward – Matthews suffered another injury last week, this time resulting in thumb surgery which could keep him out for a month.  The low volume Buffalo passing attack is not a fantasy player’s dream, but Clay owns a large 25% market share so far and Matthew’s time off should ensure a continued big role.  Consider Clay a weekly starter with the number of significant injuries at the position.

Evan Engram TE7 – One of the golden rules in fantasy football is not relying on rookie tight ends.  They rarely have big passing roles the first season taking time to learn all the nuances of the position.  Engram is proving the exception to the rule.  I wrote an entire article this offseason detailing the virtues of Engram but even I was not counting on immediate starting fantasy value.  The rookie is currently tied for second in targets, tied for fourth in receptions, and ranks sixth in yardage among all tight ends.

Moving forward – The Giants have virtually no run game to speak of, thanks in large part to a struggling offensive line, which likely means a continued short pass-happy offense from coach Ben McAdoo for the rest of season.  The athletic tight end has at least four receptions each game so far and his targets have trended upward throughout the season.  Engram should be a locked-in weekly starter given his consistent heavy usage and lack of quality options at the position.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.