The Watch List: Week 7

Updated: October 14th 2017

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the storylines, players and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my weekly picks, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Update:  No player did more for their Heisman chances in Week 6 than Bryce Love.  Love is finally getting some national attention and just when more viewers started paying attention he shined again.  Against Utah, a decent rush defense, Love ran 20 times for 152 yards and a score.  What if I told you that that stat line was Love’s worst of the season?  Strange but true because he’s been that good.  More on Love below so let’s not dive too deep yet.  I thought it was very interesting to see the top ten players as far as current Heisman odds.  I ended up needing to go to the eleventh spot to get to my man crush, Rashaad Penny.  I think Penny is criminally undervalued and would be worth a bet if I were so inclined; meanwhile Jalen Hurts and Jake Browning are at least five spots too high but buoyed because their teams are undefeated and in the Top 5.  Here are the current odds per OddsShark.com:
    1. Saquon Barkley
    2. Baker Mayfield
    3. Bryce Love
    4. Mason Rudolph
    5. Lamar Jackson
    6. Sam Darnold
    7. Luke Falk
    8. JT Barrett
    9. Jalen Hurts
    10. Jake Browning
    11. Rashaad Penny
  • Winter is Coming:  The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released in three weeks.  When I saw that I couldn’t believe it – we are already half way through the season, wow.  I can’t share my thoughts on the actual CFP ranks yet but here is how I would have them:
    1. Clemson – based on resume more so than the eye test.  Clemson has beaten three top teams (#13 Auburn, #14 Louisville, #12 Virginia Tech) and up until this point has the harder schedule between them and Alabama.
    2. Alabama – the Tide may end up being a victim of a weaker SEC and their weak cross-division schedule this season.  There’s no regular season matchup against Florida or Georgia this season and the jewel non-conference win against Florida State is looking less special as the weeks progress.  Alabama will likely have two back-to-back Top 10 games to end the season against Auburn and in the SEC Championship game but by then I think Clemson will be well established as #1.
    3. Georgia – There’s no way the CFP committee would actually have Alabama and Georgia play in the semi-finals since it’s likely a SEC Championship repeat but it would still be awesome to see.  Georgia is a lot of fun to watch and they will challenge Alabama if they both make it to the end undefeated.
    4. TCU – I struggled with putting TCU over Penn State for the last spot.  Ultimately, I went with resume over the eye test again as I did above.  TCU has two Top 25 wins (#6 Oklahoma and #12 West Virginia) while PSU has zero.
    5. Penn State – However, Penn State will have a chance to prove themselves over the next three game stretch.  They are off this weekend but will then face #17 Michigan, #9 Ohio State and #21 Michigan State in successive weeks.
  • Co-Backups in Clemson:  File this under something I have never seen before, Clemson has named Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson as “co-backups” on their updated depth chart.  Hmm.  The reason for the subterfuge is starting quarterback Kelly Bryant’s ankle injury.  Some reports say that he’ll play while others say it is a game time decision.  Who knows.  My gut says that he will not play and Dabo is just playing with Syracuse’s ability to gameplan.  Bryant is also the team’s leading rusher (97 carries, 401 yards, 7 TDs) so having to factor for him is a big deal if all that goes out the window when he is inactive.  If Bryant can’t go, I expect Hunter Johnson to take the lead.  He went 5-5 for 42 yards and a score against Wake Forest when he split relief duties with Cooper.  Johnson is a former 4-star recruit who was #21 in the ESPN300 and was the top quarterback recruit of his class.  The concern is less about Syracuse, I would expect Clemson to win either way, but more about the tougher games against North Carolina State and Florida State coming later in the month.

Players to Watch

  • Bryce Love, RB, Stanford:  There’s a lot of talk about the East Coast Bias that is going against Love and that he’s being ignored.  That’s certainly not the case here at Reality Sports.  It’s unfortunate that there is not more tape of Love available – DraftBreakdown.com has just one game from 2017 and one from 2016.  I decided to fire up that lone 2017 film and take a closer look.  Let’s start with the negatives.  Love is not a pass catcher with just 4 receptions this season and 8 last year.  I was looking for positive pass protection moments and found one in the 4th quarter during Stanford’s comeback bid where he capably picked up the blitz and gave Keller Chryst time to throw.  Unfortunately, on his next offensive play, later in the quarter, he whiffed on a block and let Chryst get blown up.  It’ll take more film study to see which of those plays was closer to the reality.  When you watch Love two things stand out, his spectacular speed and his tackle breaking ability.  To illustrate those two skills, we’ll take a closer look at two plays from the first half.  In the 1st quarter, Love took a toss left and sprinted through a massive hole for a 75 yard score.  The blocking was great, yes, but Love was at the second level before anybody on the defense could even react let alone catch him.  With seconds left to go in the 2nd quarter, Love took a pointless handoff meant to kill the clock.  Most backs would probably run up the back of their center and head into the locker room but not so for Love.  He immediately breaks a tackle five yards behind the line of scrimmage as he tries to break right, he then reverses field and breaks another tackle still five yards deep, he then makes his way up field for a minimal gain.  It was a nothing play, barely a blip in the play-by-play, but it illustrated his elusiveness and also his heart.  It didn’t matter to him that it was a clock killing play while the team was out of field goal range, he still gave it his all.  Love is 5’10” and 196lb.  He was a 4 star recruit and #215 in the ESPN300.  A definitive 40-yard dash time is hard to find but there were two numbers quoted online: 4.30 and a 4.32.  He ran a 10.7 second 100m dash in high school which is Olympian speed (8th place in the men’s 100m gold medal race at the 2016 Olympics ran a 10.6 for comparison).  To further illustrate how dominant his speed is, let’s look at combine comparables in his size range.  CJ Spiller ran a 4.37 and Jahvid Best ran a 4.34 – Love would have both of them beat.  Love is on his way to being a top RB prospect.  Right now I would have him in the RB5-RB7 range but might have to move him above guys like Bo Scarborough, Mike Weber and Ronald Jones if he keeps the production up.  Oh, hey, speaking of production… Love has 1,240 yards and is averaging 10.5 yards per carry.
  • Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn:  I haven’t seen enough of Kerryon Johnson to have a full formed opinion yet but I am definitely intrigued by his potential and production thus far.  While watching Michigan vs Michigan State last weekend a stat on the bottom line caught my eye: that Johnson had rushed for 3 TD in three consecutive games.  That stat doesn’t even give the full story because one of those games was 5 TDs (!!) and all three came against the SEC.  I was sure one of them must have been against McNeese State or some directional school.  I’m not saying that Missouri, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all have good run defenses but they are all respectable Power 5 teams.  Johnson did miss two games this season with a hamstring injury but it is encouraging that all three of these monster games have come after his return – at least we know there is no lingering injury.  Johnson is 6’0″ and 212lb and looks to have a long stride which helps him cover ground without elite speed (NFLDraftScout.com estimates 4.45 speed).  I watched film of Johnson against Mississippi State and noted his power at the goal line and in short yardage.  He also looks to be a patient runner at the line of scrimmage; on multiple runs he placed his hand on the blockers back to follow them through the hole.  One negative that was apparent is that Johnson is not much of a receiving threat: he has just 36 career receptions (14, 17, 5).  I need to see more before I can properly give him a draft projection but he’s probably a 5th-6th round NFL prospect now and a fringe RSO prospect depending on how deep your league is.

Games to Watch

  • #2 Clemson @ Syracuse, Friday 7:00pm on ESPN:  If you can only devote one weekend night to watching college football this week, make it Friday since there are two good games.  As discussed above, there is some intrigue around who will be starting for Clemson.  Either way, I don’t expect it to matter.  It will be interesting to see Clemson’s smothering defense against Syracuse QB Eric Dungey.  Dungey is 2nd in the NCAA in passing attempts and 8th in yards; plus he leads the team in rushing yards (325) and rushing TDs (8).  He’s not as skilled as Bryant but he does pose the same type of dual-threat as Bryant.   I’m not calling for the upset but, pending the line, I will be tempted to take the Orangemen with the points.
  • #8 Washington State @ Cal, Friday 10:30pm on ESPN:  It’s not often that you get a Friday night doubleheader featuring two Top 10 teams on the road.  Wazzou’s defense is for real – 6th against the pass, 11th in total yards and 8th most turnovers.  They will be facing a turnover prone QB in Cal’s Ross Bowers.  Bowers has thrown 9 INTs so far which is 5th worst in the NCAA.  He’s a high volume, low efficiency passer so I expect the Cougars to be opportunistic.  This one won’t be nearly as close as the Clemson matchup but it’s worth staying up for since in addition to seeing one of the country’s best defenses, you’ll also get to watch Heisman hopeful Luke Falk pepper the Bears defense (he had 373 yards and 5 TDs against Cal last year).
  • #6 TCU @ Kansas State, Saturday 12:00pm on FS1:  The Horned Frogs disappointed me a bit last week, I thought they would have played better against West Virginia.  Specifically, I thought RB Darius Anderson would do well (he went just 9-43).  Kenny Hill did score his first rushing touchdown of the season but was less efficient than he has been in past weeks.  Kansas State was ranked earlier in the season but lost last week to Texas and is trending in the wrong direction.  If TCU wants to be in the CFP conversation, this is the type of game they need to win convincingly.
  • #10 Auburn @ LSU, Saturday 3:30pm on CBS:  You wouldn’t know it by listening to sports talk radio, but the LSU Tigers are 4-2.  Coach Ed Orgeron has been under fire, from his own supporters no less.  They pulled off a nice 17-16 win against #21 Florida last week so hopefully that has bought Coach O some time.  Auburn’s been led lately by the aforementioned Kerryon Johnson, but it’s also important to point out QB Jarrett Stidham’s recent improvement.  He started slow but since the poor outing against Clemson, he has just 19 incompletions in the last four games.  The Auburn defense is 21st or better in just about every stat category except turnovers forced.  Expect this one to be a low scoring 16-9 type affair.
  • #13 Oklahoma @ Texas, Saturday 3:30pm on ESPN:  The Red River Rivalry is usually good for a fun game.  In my Big 12 season preview, I noted that the last four matchups have featured a ranked Oklahoma and an unranked Texas.  They have split those four.  OU is coming off a disappointing loss to Iowa State, a team that Texas beat.  Texas has still vacillated at QB but went with freshman Sam Ehlinger last week against Kansas State.  He ended up playing well and went 30-50 for 380 yards with 2 TDs and an INT.  Baker Mayfield & Co were not at fault for the Sooners’ loss last week, it was the defense that allowed the comeback from a walk-on QB and a remarkable two-way performance from LB/QB Joel Lanning.  This game feels like a true toss up, regardless of the early line (Oklahoma -8).

 


Note: When watching film for a player in the offseason, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Week 6 Street FA Report

Updated: October 10th 2017

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

BYES: Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Seahawks

Add of the Week

Roger Lewis Jr, WR – NYG (Owned 1.5%)

Week 5: 1 Rec/29 yards, 1 TD

Football is a war of attrition. That was surely the case for the Giants who were left with only Roger Lewis Jr. at WR by the end of week 5. Between Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, there are approximately 15 targets per game that are now open due to their injuries. Along with this, Sterling Shepard is questionable for week 6 leaving Lewis as a volume player to add this week. The Giants (0-5) are likely going to see 2017 as a lost year and will be looking to see what they have for talent at all positions. Therefore, it is unlikely that they get desperate and make a move for a veteran WR. Lewis should see plenty of targets even when Shepard returns and should be a WR4 the rest of the season.

Suggested Bid: $2,000,000 – $5,000,000

RB Add

Matt Breida, RB – SF (Owned 39%)

Week 5: 10 Car/49 yards, 3 Rec/22 yards

During the offseason, the fantasy community was claiming the inevitable of when, not if, Carlos Hyde was going to be phased out of San Francisco who was going to be the RB to own? Some “pounded the table” for rookie Joe Williams who showed little in preseason before an ankle injury landed him on IR. But another rookie RB has come along that has been gaining some momentum the last couple weeks. Matt Breida outscored (10:3) and out-touched Carlos Hyde (13:11) in week 5 and seems like a better fit in Kyle Shannahan’s dink and dunk offense. Another winless team, the 49ers will likely be searching their roster for future talents. With Hyde being in a contract year they may be interested to see if Breida can be a player they can use moving forward. At the very least he will likely be splitting carries with Hyde for the rest of the year. If Hyde was to be injured (as he frequently has been in the past) then Breida would be in for a large workload.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000

WR Add

Kendall Wright, WR – CHI (Owned 46%)

Week 5: 4 Rec/46 yards

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about D’eonte Thompson as a WR sleeper to add and he had a decent week last week (5-44-0). Unfortunately, Kendall Wright has come back from injury and seems to be the primary receiver for new starter Mitchell Trubisky moving forward. While the passing game in Chicago isn’t very efficient or start-studded it does expect to be featured more due to the negative game script that comes with being 1-4. This means our favorite garbage time points may boost several Bears players’ weekly totals. Similarly to why I want Jermaine Kearse in all formats due to him being the only reliable veteran receiver on his given team, Kendall Wright should have a similar production level moving forward.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000

TE Adds

George Kittle, TE – SF (Owned 21%)

Week 5: 7 Rec/83 yards, 1 TD

Ed Dickson, TE – CAR (Owned 8%)

Week 5: 5 Rec/175 yards

Call it game script, call it luck but these two TEs showed that they need to be owned in what is another down year for the TE position. At age 30, Ed Dickson assuredly won’t have over 175 yards in one game for the rest of his career but he has shown to be a reliable replacement for Greg Olsen. In the last 2 weeks, Dickson has a 27% target share and one less target than Kelvin Benjamin (9:10). If Newton has found his mojo again then Dickson could continue to function as a matchup-based TE2.

Kittle, on the other hand, is another interesting rookie TE who has managed to break the stigma that TEs aren’t valuable year 1. If he wasn’t scooped up at the end of your rookie draft he might be a worthy stash at this point in the season to consider for the resign feature. He has had at least 1 catch in every game this season and was targeted 9 times last week, including the game-tying TD. Based on the position cost, lack of reliable options and his overall production, Kittle could be a steal to have on your roster in a year or two.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

Sleeper Add (<10%)

A.J. Derby, TE – DEN (Owned 4%)

Week 5: BYE

Sometimes the best way to find value on the wire is to have a player go off right before his bye. Everyone forgets about them and doesn’t concern their time with adding a player who won’t contribute next week. Similar to my analysis on Kittle, A.J. Derby is a young TE who needed some time to adjust to a new offense (he was traded from New England to Denver midway through last season). In week 4 he had his first big game with 4 catches for 75 yards and a highlight one-handed catch touchdown. He was also the only TE to receive a target in the game and is out targeting all other Denver TEs 12:10 showing that he has a firm control of the position. As the season goes along Derby could become Siemian’s dump off and red zone target. He’s another player to acquire for resign possibilities later in the season.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

The Watch List: Week 6

Updated: October 7th 2017

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the storylines, players and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my weekly picks, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Update:  With my non-existent vote, I am still taking Saquon Barkley.  He had just 107 total yards against Indiana but also added a passing touchdown and returned the opening kickoff for a score to set the tone.  QBs Mason Rudolph and Lamar Jackson held serve with 3 passing TD each and fill out my top three.  The two Pac-12 QBs, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, have fallen in my Heisman ranks but are still my top NFL prospects at the position.  I think we need to start considering Oklahoma State WR James Washington in the conversation because his numbers are fantastic, more on him below.
  • Sam is Sliding:  I have not been impressed by Darnold through the first five weeks of the season and have removed him from realistic Heisman consideration.  He will still be a top two NFL draft pick, barring catastrophic injury, but the bloom may be off the rose so to speak.  I have not been shy about my concerns of Darnold’s throwing motion.  One of my Twitter follows, who I can’t recall and I didn’t favorite it, had a good point: Darnold’s elongated throwing motion may be telegraphing his passes and leading to the turnovers.  What he means is that defenders have an extra fraction of a second to react to Darnold’s eyes because it takes longer for the ball to come up and be released.  So far he has 7 INTs which is third most in the FBS.  Whether that’s causation or just correlation I don’t know but it worries me.  In my Pac-12 preview, I comped Darnold physically to Christian Hackenberg, maybe I was right in more ways than one.
  • Nick Saban for President:  It’s Nick Saban’s world and we’re all just living in it.  Alabama is off to a 5-0 start and has outscored opponents 231-43.  The opponents don’t make up the country’s toughest starting schedule, but there are no true cream puffs in the bunch: Florida State with a healthy Deondre Francois, Fresno State, Colorado State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.  An amazing, if unsurprising, stat I found while researching Alabama for this piece: they are the only FBS team without a turnover.  Not a single giveaway in five games.  Another great stat is that the team has four 199+ yard rushers in QB Jalen Hurts and RBs Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough and Najee Harris.  The running backs are splitting carries relatively evenly and have combined for 11 TDs thus far.  It’s going to to take something special to beat the Tide this season.

Players to Watch

  • Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State:  I have used a number of superlatives to describe Penny on my Twitter.  There is no denying his skill and ability at the college level, what I want to find out is if he can cut it in the pros.  In 2016, Penny had just over 1,000 yards and 14 total TDs playing second fiddle to Donnell Pumphrey.  In 2017, he already has 823 yards and 9 TDs.  It will be telling to see if he can hold up over the course of a full 250+ touch season.  As far as physical comps go, I think fair ones for Penny would be Christine Michael or Devontae Booker.  Neither has realized much NFL success yet but I feel those two are also solid comps as far as draft stock: late 2nd to early 4th round.  Because of my man crush on Penny, I have already watched him more than most prospects this season.  I watched both the Stanford and Northern Illinois games in full and bits of the Arizona State and Air Force games.  My general perceptions are that Penny runs with power between the tackles, is quick but not fast, is average in pass protection, above average as a receiver and is a dynamic kick returner.  I was not taking copious notes while watching these games, that type of study will come in the offseason, but I cannot recall seeing a single negative run by Penny.  I’m sure there are a few of them there but they are few.  Right now I would rank Penny somewhere in the 5-7 range at running back for 2018.  He is definitively behind Barkley, Guice, Chubb and Ronald Jones for me.  He would be in the conversation with Bo Scarborough, Mike Weber, Sony Michel and Bryce Love.  For Penny to have moved up that high on my list that quickly was surprising but it’s impossible to deny what he’s doing for this undefeated Aztec team.
  • James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State:  Washington’s stats have been buoyed by Mason Rudolph’s success and the team’s system but still, Washington is impressing me.  He has 28 receptions, 647 yards and 5 TDs with a 23.1 average per reception.  If you look at Washington’s game logs, it isn’t dominated by one outlier as is the case for some other prospects this early in the season.  To date he has 145, 98, 124, 153 and 127 yards in each game; not bad when 98 yards is your lowest output.  He’s 6’1″ and 205lbs and is a burner.  A good recent NFL combine physical comp would be Torrey Smith.  Smith is known for his speed and breakaway ability but less so for his hands which is not a concern for Washington in my research.  I can’t find any primary source giving a 40 yard dash time for Washington but we can estimate.  NFLDraftScout.com has Washington projected 4.35-4.55.  I found an article discussing his high school track success which stated that he ran a 21.4 in the 200 yard dash.  I know the math doesn’t actually work this way but that would be a 4.28 pace over 40 yards.  Let’s round up and use the lower bound of the NFLDraftScout.com prediction and say he runs a 4.35, where does that put him?  It would be the second fastest time run by a WR in his size range (6’0″-6’2″ and between 200-210lb) since 2010 (seventh best if you go back to 2000).  Washington was a track star in multiple events so his athleticism is not at all in question.  During the offseason I will need to go back and watch some more film of Washington regarding his hand placement, tracking and route running but based on my research and what I’ve seen in limited exposure to Oklahoma State this season I am impressed.  Early gut call, Washington will end up as my WR2 heading into the draft process.

Games to Watch

  •  #17 Louisville @ #24 North Carolina State, Thursday 8:00pm on ESPN:  One of just two Top 25 matchups this week, this game will pose another good foil to the subpar NFL game on Thursday.  If any defense will stop Lamar Jackson, maybe it’s the Wolfpack.  NC State is 7th in rushing yards allowed per game and is led by DE Bradley Chubb and LB Jerod Fernandez (44 tackles, 14 last week vs Syracuse).  In the game last week against Syracuse, the Wolfpack defense held QB Eric Dungey to just 44 yards although they did allow him to score twice.  I’m in no way saying that Dungey and Jackson are on the same level but if they could limit a normal rushing quarterback, maybe they could at least slow down Jackson.
  • Wake Forest @ #2 Clemson, Saturday 12:00pm on ESPN2:  Wake Forest is 12th in the nation in points allowed (with games against BC, Utah State, App State and Florida State) and will look to be opportunistic against Clemson QB Kelly Bryant.  Bryant has been efficient this season (66.2% completion percentage) but has just 3 TDs to 3 INTs.  Where Bryant stands out is on the run where he has 7 TDs already.  As of this writing, I haven’t checked the lines but if it’s anything more than 17, I’m taking Wake to keep it close.
  • Eastern Michigan @ Toledo, Saturday 12:00pm on CBSSN:  No, this isn’t a misprint.  I will actually be checking into this one to see Toledo QB Logan Woodside.  Woodside has an outside chance at climbing up NFL draft rankings and could be a late round draft pick next Spring.  So far he has 1,346 yards with 11 TDs and just 1 INT, including 342-3-0 against a Miami team that is now ranked 13th in the AP Poll.
  • #23 West Virginia @ #8 TCU, Saturday 3:30pm on FS1:  This is the other Top 25 matchup this week.  Sadly, for us college football fans, I don’t predict that this one will be very close.  WVU is 108th in the FBS by total yards per game and is even worse (114th) against the run.  TCU’s sophomore running back Darius Anderson stood out last game against Oklahoma State (160 yards, 3 TDs) and will trounce the Mountaineers.  TCU is a complete team with a solid offense and a defense that ranks in the Top 30 in points, total yards and rush yards per game.
  • Michigan State @ #7 Michigan, Saturday 7:30pm on ABC:  As a Michigan fan, I am worried about this one.  Sparty is currently 3-1 but I don’t believe they can compete in the division title race so this game will be their “bowl game” and mean more than a typical regular season game.  MSU won a close one last week, 17-10, over an underrated Iowa team.  On the Wolverines’ side, they will be without starting quarterback Wilton Speight.  I’m not convinced that is a bad thing though.  Former Houston transfer John O’Korn filled in ably in relief last week throwing for 270 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT against Purdue.  This one will be a low scoring, physical affair and the Spartans will stay in striking distance.  Keep an eye out for one of Dantonio’s signature trick plays if it’s close and his team needs the momentum and a “shot” play.

Note: When watching film for a player in the offseason, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Week 5 Street FA Report

Updated: October 5th 2017

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

BYES: New Orleans, Atlanta, Denver, Washington

Add of the Week

Aaron Jones, RB – GB (Owned 28%)

Week 4: 13 Car/49 yards, 1 TD

You never hope for an injury to another person but once Ty Montgomery went out with a chest injury Thursday night I was excited to finally see what Jamaal Williams would do. Unfortunately, he also was injured after 4 carries leaving the Aarons, Jones and Ripkowski, as the only two options for Green Bay right now. Ripkowski is more of a fullback which means that Jones could be in for a heavy usage while the other two RBs are out. There are conflicting reports about how serious Montgomery’s injury is; some says he’s day-to-day while others suggest it could be 2-4 weeks. What is for sure is that with the amount of touches that Montgomery has received over the first 3 games suggests that Aaron Jones may have more than his fair number of chances moving forward.

Suggested Bid: $2,000,000 – $5,000,000

RB Adds

Elijah McGuire, RB – NYJ (Owned 30%)

Week 4: 10 Car/93 yards, 1 TD, 2 Rec/38 yards

I must be crazy for suggesting a Jets player 3 out of the first 4 weeks but they just keep exceeding expectations for me. McGuire, a 6th round rookie, had one of the two Jet runs that went for over 60 yards on their way to an overtime win last week. While Bilal Powell more than doubled his touches (25:12) it’ll be interesting to see what coaches want to do moving forward. The Jets are a team in rebuild and may want to see what they have at each position going into next offseason. They may not be able to run the ball as effectively as they did against the Jags each week but McGuire does have the speed and pass-catching ability to be used as a receiving back in this offense when needed.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

 

Alex Collins, RB – BAL (Owned 47%)

Week 4: 9 Car/82 yards

Baltimore’s offense has looked like molasses the past two weeks which makes it hard for fantasy owners to trust using any player on a weekly basis. Javorius Allen is still the back to own in PPR leagues since he is featured heavily in Joe Flacco’s passing game however, Alex Collins has shown that he is now likely the between tackles/goal line back. He had more carries than both Allen and Terrance West combined (9:6) last week. If he can stop fumbling the ball once a game Collins should have at least some use for the coming bye weeks.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

WR Adds

Adam Humphries, WR – TB (Owned 3%)

Week 4: 6 Rec/70 yards

Let me start by saying that I would only be adding Humphries in a league where I am hurting at WR for week 5 and may need a Hail Mary option. The Bucs face the Patriots (on a short week) who have been one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history through 4 games. Bill Belichick usually takes away your number option which means double coverage for Mike Evans. But there is nothing to suggest that one-on-one coverage everywhere else will slow down a team’s passing attack this year. In what could be another Thursday Night shootout Humphries could have a similar stat line to last week. A touchdown would just be icing.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

TE Adds

Tyler Kroft, TE – CIN (Owned 3%)

Week 4: 6 Rec/68 yards, 2 TD

Cincinnati loves to feature its tight ends no matter who is available. With Tyler Eifert out for a second straight week, Kroft took advantage of a poor Browns defense scoring two touchdowns. Though he will never outrank A.J. Green in targets Kroft is likely only competing with LaFell for second in target shares with Eifert out. Similar to what I said last week about Jordan Reed’s injury concerns leading to Vernon Davis’ week-to-week value the longer Eifert is out the more weeks that Kroft should be at least a TE2 option.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

Sleeper Add

ANYONE WITH FUTURE VALUE

I know this might sound like a cop-out but with RSOs new resign feature coming available this week if you have room at the end of your bench and don’t already have a resign candidate in mind (or the values are out of your price range) then why not take a shot with a player that might have value in 2018 and beyond. Several young QBs that could find themselves in starting roles next year are likely available including Jimmy Garoppolo, A.J. McCarron, and Jacoby Brissett. As well, there may be injured players that could be bargain bin finds to scoop up before they become healthy prior to next year’s auctions. A prime candidate for this would be Quincy Enunwa (yes another Jet) who is available in 22% of leagues. Remember that it will take a week for the system to process a free agent’s resign value so you won’t be able to see what their value is until week 6. But if you’re already thinking of using this strategy then you’re thinking long term anyway.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

The Watch List: Week 5

Updated: September 27th 2017

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the storylines, players and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my weekly picks, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Update: I am starting to regret my plan to include a Heisman update in every weekly Watch List article.  The weekly movement so far has been greater than I expected but I do anticipate that we will have some more clarity in two or three weeks after teams get deeper into their conference schedule.  After his dominating performance against Iowa’s 26th ranked rush defense, Saquon Barkley leap frogs Mason Rudolph to my top spot.  Barkley had 305 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown and was key to the Nittany Lions’ comeback victory.  Barkley just might be better than advertised.  Four QBs, in no particular order at the moment, round out my top five: Rudolph, Darnold, Rosen and Jackson.  Combined, those four threw just 9 TDs this weekend and a whopping 7 INTs.  They did throw for a lot of yards (1,400) but it was just a good reminder that none of them is perfect.
  • Georgia’s QB Controversy:  Head coach Kirby Smart has found himself living the old adage that “if you have two quarterbacks, you have zero.”  True freshman Jake Fromm took over for sophomore Jacob Eason after Eason was hurt to start the season.  Fromm has lead the team capably since then and has improved on Eason’s numbers from last year.  Eason was just over 55% completion percentage in 2016 while Fromm is over 62% this season.  As far as TD:INT ratio goes, Eason was 16:8 while Fromm is 7:1.  Smart has to stick with the hot hand for now but would be smart to find Eason some time in lopsided games, you never know when Eason will have to return to the starting role.  One last note, can everybody please stop with the “Jake Fromm State Farm” joke on Twitter?  Thank you.
  • Injuries to RB Prospects:  I have not done 2018 positional rankings yet but both Derrius Guice and Ronald Jones would be in or near my Top 5 as of today.  The problem is that both are struggling with injuries which have left the door open for their understudy to steal some share of the carries.  Jones, unexpectedly at least to me, did not travel to Cal and missed the game.  That let true freshman Stephen Carr load up with 26 touches and he succeeded with 129 total yards and a touchdown.  Guice did play against Auburn, in fact he had a one yard touchdown run on the Tigers first play that was set up by an interception, but was limited to just 8 carries and 14 yards.  Similar to Carr, Darrel Williams had 142 total yards and a score.  Even if Guice and Jones retain the biggest piece of the pie, I think there is no question that their teams will not rush them back.

Players to Watch

  • Jaylen Samuels, TE, NC State:  I’ll start off by saying that I have no idea what Samuels’ pro prospects are but it doesn’t matter, he’s quickly become one of my favorite college players.  Samuels is listed as a TE but he really isn’t.  At 5’11” and 228lb, he would be the first TE at the combine since 2000 to be shorter than 6’1″ (Pro-football-reference.com only goes back to 2000, I would bet that record would go back further).  What Samuels lacks in stature, he makes up for with “want to.”  Whatever you need him to do on the field, he wants to.  I have never seen such interesting game logs than his.  He has 164 career carries, 117 receptions and 2 passing completions.  He has 18 rushing TDs, 20 receiving TDs and 1 passing TD.  Against Florida State this past weekend, he had 17 touches for 75 yards and 2 TDs.  In the NFL he’ll project more as an h-back (same size as Matt Asiata) but could be the ultimate 3rd down weapon if he lands on the right team.
  • David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State:  By all accounts David Montgomery is a good kid with a good story which makes his success so far for the Cyclones refreshing.  Montgomery finished his freshman season off strong with 341 yards over the last three games and has continued that success into 2017.  His trend line, yards wise, is heading in the right direction this year with 82, 113 and 127 yards against Northern Iowa, Iowa and Akron respectively.  He’s also getting involved in the passing game with five catches each of the last two.  Montgomery is just a sophomore but I’m rooting for him to keep up the success and look forward to doing more in depth research next season.
  • Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson:  Etienne is a true freshman who has found a role as the hammer to close out Clemson’s wins.  He had a late 4th quarter touchdown against both Louisville and Boston College.  His yardage totals are impressive 81-98-113 but are mostly composed of yards gained on his three 50+ yard runs.  There is something strange looking about Etienne’s gait, I think it’s because he is such a long strider, but he is undeniably fast and explosive.  If he sees any daylight, he is gone.  In high school, he ran a hand-timed 4.24 40-yard dash.  I question the accuracy but given three years of college experience, I have no doubt that Etienne can end up in that range at the 2020 NFL combine.  Playing devil’s advocate to my own thoughts, I should point out that I am evaluating Etienne on the smallest of sample sizes: has just 23 carries through three games and zero receptions.  I’m hoping that he proves durable enough to earn 10-12 touches per game the rest of the way.
  • Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State:  Chubb will be one of the top ranked DE prospects in 2018 and is likely a first round talent.  I’ll bet most casual fans have never heard of him but if you watched the game against Florida State you might have noticed him.  Chubb had 7 tackles and 2 sacks.  Chubb also had a forced fumble but was not credited with one, maybe because of the crazy melee that followed trying to recover the fumble.

Games to Watch

  • #5 USC @ #16 Washington State, 10:30pm Friday on ESPN:  Pac-12 after dark is usually a great way to end your Saturdays but this week we get a great Friday night matchup to start off the weekend.  As returning readers know, I am down on QB Sam Darnold but up on RBs Ronald Jones and Stephen Carr.  Neither defense is great so we’ll see a lot of points.  I am interested in seeing Washington State QB Luke Falk against a defense with some NFL prospects, especially CB Iman Marshall.
  • Northwestern @ #10 Wisconsin, 12:00pm Saturday on ABC:  Northwestern’s senior RB Justin Jackson is on my watch list but I haven’t done enough research yet to feature him.  He had a great game against Bowling Green last game (121 yards, 3 TDs) but struggled against Duke the week before (just 18 yards).  Seeing him face Wisconsin’s 9th ranked rush defense will be telling.  Wisconsin’s QB, Alex Hornibrook, has been steady and takes care of the ball (70% completion percentage and just 1 INT).  The surprise for the Badgers though has been true freshman RB Jonathan Taylor.  Taylor is just a 3 star recruit from NJ but is averaging an impressive 8.3 yards per carry.  He lit up FAU for 223 yards and 3 TDs and followed that up with 128-1 against BYU.  The matchup has 13-9 written all over it but I’ll still be tuning in.
  • #2 Clemson @ #12 Virginia Tech, 8:00pm Saturday on ABC:  Beating Clemson would be a career defining win for Hokie coach Justin Fuente.  Fuente’s stock is already rising after a 10-4 season last year and a strong start to 2017.  There aren’t too many jobs bigger than Virginia Tech but he’ll be a candidate for some of them if he keeps it up.  Tech WR Cam Phillips has 34 receptions (4th most in the NCAA) which is nearly half of QB Josh Jackson’s completions.  Keep your eye on Clemson’s star in the making, freshman RB Travis Etienne.
  • Northern Illinois @ #19 San Diego State, 10:30 Saturday on CBSSN: Northern Illinois has a good non-conference win already under their belt against Nebraska and they will be looking to add another scalp in #19 San Diego State.  I think the 19th ranking is a little disrespectful, they should be ahead of South Florida.  Rashaad Penny, after his fantastic start, will find himself in the 5-7 range of my 2018 RBs when I start working on positional rankings.  Penny is second in the NCAA in rushing yards (716) and second in yards from scrimmage (803).  SDSU’s defense is good enough to make me feel confident in picking the Aztecs to keep their run alive.

Note: When watching film for a player in the offseason, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Week 4 Waiver Report

Updated: September 27th 2017

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

Add of the Week

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE – NYJ (Owned 39%)

Week 3: 5 Rec/31 yards

Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ) joined his new team after serving his two-game suspension and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. While 30 yards isn’t a lot this offers the perfect opportunity to still get him off the waivers without breaking the bank. The game was well in hand for most of the afternoon so the Jets ran the ball 30 times, limiting the passing game. But ASJ did tie Robby Anderson for the most targets (6) and brought in 5 catches. The Jets figure to be playing from behind more than they were this week which means that there is a definite upside to ASJ’s target volume. Along with this, Matt Forte injured his toe and left early in the game. If he misses any amount of time this only means more dump-off targets will be available. The Jets haven’t had a fantasy relevant TE since the days of Dustin Keller but if ASJ is truly over his personal demons this could be a great turnaround season for him.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

RB Add

Orleans Darkwa, RB – NYG (Owned 18%)

Week 3: 7 Car/22 yards, 1 Rec/11 yards

The Giants looked absolutely terrible on offense for the first two games and two-quarters of the season but then they scored three 4th quarter touchdowns and quieted at least some of their detractors. The overall state of the Giants run game is brutal, 48.7 yards/game and isn’t one to get excited about. I still prefer Shane Vereen (who I listed as a waiver add two weeks ago) since he has the greatest upside as the primary receiving back but it appears that Ben McAdoo is still trying to find a traditional way to use the running game in his offense. McAdoo does appear, however, to be losing faith in Paul Perkins since he only had 2 more carries than Darkwa. It’s not an unrealistic expectation for him to try and create a spark in the offense by switching up his lead back. Darkwa isn’t someone that you would add to start but with bye weeks coming soon and injuries to RBs piling up he might be a usable option in weeks to come.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

WR Add

Ryan Grant, WR – WAS (Owned 4%)

Week 3: 3 Rec/75 yards

I wanted to add Grant to this column last week but needed to see more from him and his 1 catch performance in week 2. Finally getting a chance to watch a full game on Sunday Night showed me that he is definitely involved in Kirk Cousin’s target list and is an add in every league right now. The best part of the week 3 game was that Josh Doctson had a highlight reel catch that will make everyone think that he is ready to be a big part of the offense. In reality, Doctson had only that one catch on two targets in the game. Cousins might be looking to Chris Thompson in the dump pass more often but I also expect opposing teams to scheme for this moving forward. Hopefully, this opens up more play action screens giving Grant and other receivers separation downfield.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

Bruce Ellington, WR – HOU (Owned 4%)

Week 3: 4 Rec/59 yards, 1 TD

Bruce Ellington was a player that I rostered throughout the preseason due to a number of receiver injuries that the Texans had. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the final cut for most of my fantasy teams and wasn’t used by the Texans for the first two weeks of the season. He showed up in week 3 however and looked like the second option behind DeAndre Hopkins playing on 70 of 71 offensive snap. He also caught his first touchdown of the season. There was plenty of optimism surrounding Ellington’s potential while in San Francisco so maybe it will be with this change of scenery that he will start to see fantasy value again. There has been recent news that Will Fuller could play in week 4 but between his one-dimensional usage as a speed receiver and frequent drops, the staff may want to see what Ellington can do first.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,000,000

TE Adds

Vernon Davis, TE – WAS (Owned 15%)

Week 3: 5 Rec/58 yards, 1 TD

Surprise, surprise Jordan Reed is injured and missed another game. If it walks like an injured duck and squawks like an injured duck then it’s probably an injury-prone duck. As I mentioned in the Grant piece above, Kirk Cousin’s is likely going to be throwing a high number of passes this season and likes to use his TE in the passing game each week. Vernon Davis may not be the player he was San Francisco years ago but there’s a reason Washington values him enough to have behind Jordan Reed. He’s a player who knows how to play fundamental football and gets open with his route running and quickness. Reed will likely be out for other games throughout the season so Davis will have his days. Tight End production can be hard to predict outside of a handful of players but if Reed is out Davis should be started in all leagues.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000 – $1,500,000

Sleeper Add (<10%)

Corey Clement, RB – PHI (Owned 5%)

Week 3: 6 Car/22 yards, 1 TD

Another preseason player that both fellow RSO writer Bob Cowper (@RobertFCowper) and I liked this preseason was undrafted rookie running back, Corey Clement. I spoke about his potential in this offense in my preseason watch list article here. After Darren Sproles was injured last week he finally got see some action and he showed flashes of his ability with limited reps, scoring a late touchdown. Remember, during the preseason there were rumors about LeGarrette Blount not fitting well with the Eagles run scheme and Wendell Smallwood looked sluggish. Both were considered plausible cut candidates. Now that Sproles is done for the season (ACL tear and broken arm) Clement may have his shot to prove that he can be a part of this offense. It may not be immediate but I would expect Doug Pederson to play the guy that gives him the best chance to win the game; which I think could be Corey Clement.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000 – $1,500,000