“Round Robinson”: Flexual Tension (The RB/WR Hot List for Week 3)
“Whoa, what was that? You heard that right? I couldn’t have been the only one who did. Eh, maybe it was just me.”
(Three minutes later)
“There it is again. What is that? It sounds like it’s getting louder. Am I losing my mind over here? What is going on?”
(Mere seconds later)
“Ok, I know you heard that one. There’s no way you didn’t. Something’s happening out there and it can’t be good”
All that ruckus, all that commotion you’ve been hearing, that was the echoing thud of star after star falling like a ton of bricks in this past weekend’s games. Jamaal Charles, Ryan Mathews, A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson and even Mark Ingram, all down for the count. Attrition thy name is fantasy football. If you somehow managed to avoid the injury bug completely, kudos to you, you’re obviously living a charmed life (or read my preseason handcuff primer). For the rest of us mortals, Week 2 was less about watching our studs accumulate big time point totals and more about surviving the middle chapters of an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The injury bug taking a Mike Tyson-like bite (or, if you prefer a more current reference, Marcos Maidana-like) out of the player pool means that this week’s waiver wire was flooded with options. This is one of the rare weeks where, no matter if your wire priority was high or low, there was a little something out there for everyone. Hopefully you got yourself a difference maker as we head into Week 3, but be forewarned: not every slick pickup is in for a promising immediate return. This week’s Hot List is dotted with some replacement options that I think will make an immediate impact in your lineup and potentially change the outlook of your squad. But before we get to Week 3, let’s put a bow on Week 2 by looking at the good and the bad from the previous edition of the Hot List.
Week 2 Hits:
Bernard Pierce: Standard scoring: 10.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 11.3 pts
Terrance West: Standard scoring: 15.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 17.0 pts
Ahmad Bradshaw: Standard scoring: 21.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 26.6 pts
Darren McFadden: Standard scoring: 12.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 15.8 pts
Week 2 Misses:
Larry Fitzgerald: Standard scoring: 5.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 11.1 pts
Shane Vereen: Standard scoring: 4.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 5.0 pts
Justin Hunter: Standard scoring: 2.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 2.6 pts
Brandin Cooks: Standard scoring: 4.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 7.8 pts
Golden Tate: Standard scoring: 5.7 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.7 pts
Greg Jennings: Standard scoring: 0.4 pts; MLFS scoring: 2.4 pts
You can call me the Running Back Whisperer if you’d like (pretty nice ring to it) as, for the second week in a row, I nailed four out of five calls in the backfield. Have to say I didn’t understand why just about everyone seemed to be on Team Forsett when the Ravens took on the Steelers Thursday night. Forsett is the definition of a journeyman (five teams in seven years) and, despite what Baltimore did in its opening game, I couldn’t see them hitching their wagon to a back that most would agree is a better change-of-pace runner than a bell cow. The 22-to-8 split of the carries leaned a little more towards Pierce than even I imagined, but I foresee him getting twice as many carries than Forsett on a weekly basis. Pierce will slot somewhere in the 20-25 range going forward and has a decent matchup this week against the Browns.
Similarly, we welcome back Ahmad Bradshaw to the RB discussion after his explosion Monday night against Philly. I like to think of myself as a logical person, and the equation for Bradshaw’s success made too much sense to ignore: Colts’ great passing game + versatile RB who can make plays rushing or receiving + shootout potential with the Eagles + Trent Richardson still being Trent Richardson = a return to fantasy relevance for Bradshaw. I have a soft spot for running backs tied to prolific offenses, and if we all can see with our own two eyes that Richardson just wasn’t cutting the mustard for Indy, Bradshaw usurping his role was an inevitable occurrence. Now, Richardson didn’t completely suck in this one (a mild upgrade based on recent performance), but Bradshaw again asserted he is the more talented back in this offense and has chiseled out a nice share of the snap count. He also slots in that Bernard Pierce range for me and draws a tasty matchup against the Jaguars in Week 3.
If I’m going to take credit for great calls in the RB department, I have to also take myself to task for whiffing big time on my WR calls in Week 2. Granted, Larry Fitzgerald was just inches away from adding a TD to his day and I was correct in my assertion that he would outdo teammate Michael Floyd, but I don’t grade on a curve so that’s still a miss. Cooks and Tate also disappointed as I expected strong Week 1 performances to carry over. Tate was an especially tough pill to swallow as he got off to such a strong start against Carolina with four of his five catches coming very early in that contest. He looked to be headed towards the century mark when the Panthers D reminded the world they’re still the Panthers D. I know Detroit was on the road, but Carolina stymied one of the NFL’s most potent offenses all day long and are still one of the toughest matchups out there. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell owners: temper your expectations this week. Roethlisberger and Wheaton owners: find yourself a better option.
The Justin Hunter dilemma was just a microcosm of a misconception we all had heading into Sunday. Raise your hand if you started some combination of Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker and Hunter because you saw “vs. DAL” on the schedule. Go ahead, raise ’em nice and high because you know you were on that bandwagon as were we all. Now, Walker had himself a day, but Locker, Wright and Hunter all disappointed and I’ll bet the farm that you sat someone who was mighty productive as a result (Philip Rivers, please accept my formal apology). The major takeaway from this game is that we can no longer look at the schedule and view the team across from Dallas as if they’re going to be The Greatest Show on Turf reincarnate (appropriate considering who the Cowboys face this week). It’s not an immediate plug-and-play for someone facing Dallas anymore with the exception the TE position as both Vernon Davis and Walker have roasted the Dallas LBs. I won’t go so far as to steal his thunder, but I think I can guess one of the TEs the esteemed Ryan Ingram might highlight for you tomorrow (we like to call that a tease).
Alrighty then, with Week 2 officially in the books, let’s get the Week 3 edition of the Hot List cranked up, starting with the crown jewel of this week’s waiver wire pillage.
Knile Davis, RB (KC) – There’s one of two scenarios facing a Davis owner this week. If you heeded my preseason advice as a Jamaal Charles owner and backed him up with Davis, then odds are you don’t have two better options at RB and Davis is a simple replacement in your lineup. On the other hand, if Davis was floating around on the wire and you picked him up, or you just happened to already have him rostered as a lottery ticket, then you might have a little problem this week (albeit a good problem) deciding who makes your starting lineup. Let me provide you the solution. Start. Knile. Davis. I did the math and there’s no more than nine other RBs I would consider starting before Davis (spoiler alert: Eddie Lacy isn’t one of them). The matchup with the Dolphins scares no one and Andy Reid has shown in the past he’s more than happy to ride Davis, perhaps saddling him with more touches than he would feel comfortable giving Charles. Use him everywhere, including player eliminator games.
Expectation: Top-8 RB
Stevan Ridley, RB (NE) – Damn you, Bill Belichick. Every time I think I can walk away from your cloudy RB situation, you pull me right back in. New England let Ridley tote it 25 times in their dismantling of Minnesota in Week 2 and now they welcome in Oakland, who just so happens to be dead last in the NFL against the run. This sets up to be another game where Brady’s production takes a backseat as the running game and defense (my #1 defensive play of the week) drop the hammer against the Raiders. Provided Ridley doesn’t put the ball on the turf (gulp), he should have another busy day on Sunday. But the stamp of approval for Ridley doesn’t mean I’m dismissing Shane Vereen either. I expect him to bounce back and be more involved in the game plan and be a suitable flex starter as well. Of the two though, this week I’m believing in Stevan Ridley.
Expectation: Top-15 RB
Pierre Garçon, WR (WAS) – The best thing that could’ve happened to Washington’s offense was a clear path for Kirk Cousins to the starting job. Sorry, RGIII fans, but the tape doesn’t lie. Certainly didn’t wish to see that come to fruition through a gruesome injury like the one Griffin suffered on Sunday, but in Jay Gruden’s new offensive system, Cousins is flat-out a better fit. The beneficiary of the change will be Pierre Garçon after two lackluster weeks to start the season. The Eagles are more susceptible to the pass than they are the run and I expect Cousins to get the ball out of his hands quickly and on time to his most steady receiver, especially with DeSean Jackson’s status up in the air. If you’re worried about the rapport between Garçon and Cousins, don’t be. When Cousins started the final three games of 2013 for Washington, all Garçon did was record 24 Rec for 329 Yds and 2 TD. Now is not the time to panic on Pierre.
Expectation: Top-15 WR
Joique Bell, RB (DET) – Do you believe me, now? I told you in the preseason that Bell was the Lions’ RB to own over Reggie Bush and, after two weeks, the numbers back it up. Bell has 32 touches so far this season compared to just 23 for Bush and Bell is getting those goal-line touches as well. The Lions are back at home to face the Packers this week and their offense should return to juggernaut status in this potential shootout. Last year at home against Green Bay, Bell had 128 total yards and a TD (full disclosure: Bush had 182 total yards and a TD in the same game). Detroit seems to be putting their faith in Bell this year as Reggie Bush is the starter in title only, and you should be more than happy to do the same.
Expectation: Top-15 RB
Marques Colston, WR (NO) – You expect the Saints to be a little less formidable an offense when they go on the road, but no one in their right mind expected Colston to walk out of Cleveland with a big ‘ol donut on the stat sheet. Zero yards. Zero catches. Zero targets. Oye. New Orleans is now 0-2 on the season and needing a win more than any team in the league this week. Coming back to the Superdome against a less than formidable opponent in Minnesota, I expect to see this entire offense absolutely explode, no one more so than Colston. Last year at home, Colston recorded 632 Yds and 4 TD (vs. just 311 Yds and 1 TD on the road). Every time we seem to doubt his abilities, he reminds us that he’s still a very capable WR2 who can provide the occasional big game. Colston bounces back in a big way this week.
Expectation: Top-20 WR
T.Y. Hilton, WR (IND) – If you’re looking for the prototypical boom-or-bust option at WR, it has to be Hilton. Unfortunately, his first two games (10 Rec, 106 Yds, 0 TD combined) have been of the bust variety. No better time than a road tilt with Jacksonville for Hilton to return to fantasy difference maker status. In his two games against the Jags in 2013, Hilton had 15 Rec and went for an even 200 Yds. In the last six quarters, the Jacksonville defense has been shredded by the likes of Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins, and now a bona fide superstar in Andrew Luck comes to town licking his chops. He’ll target Hilton early and he’ll target him often as this could be one of those weeks Hilton wins you your matchup.
Expectation: Top-20 WR
Bobby Rainey, RB (TB) – The Doug Martin era is over. Kaput. Finito. Sayonara. No matter what language you say it in, it’s obvious that Martin is no longer the best back in the Tampa Bay backfield and the reins need to be turned over to Rainey. Maybe it’s misguided, but I have faith that Lovie Smith and the Buccaneers can see that as well. As if there wasn’t enough working against him, Martin is coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss last week’s game and now is staring at a short week for the Thursday night game. Let’s not get carried away though, Bobby Rainey is no superstar. But if he’s getting the heftier end of a 60/40 split tonight against a Falcons team that has surrendered the most fantasy points to running backs through two weeks, it’s hard not to get a little excited at his prospects. With Josh McCown reverting to his pre-Bears ways, Tampa will be leaning on the run game to control the clock and keep Matt Ryan on the sideline. I’ll take my chances with Rainey getting 20+ touches this week. For those playing the futures market, if there’s one back I’ll put my faith in for the end of this year and beyond, it’s not Rainey, it’s not Martin, it’s Charles Sims. File that away for later use.
Expectation: Top-25 RB
Greg Jennings, WR (MIN) – If at first you don’t succeed… throw Greg Jennings’ name out there again. I’m using a mulligan and banking on the veteran receiver to have a better game this week than he did the last week. There were a lot of things working against the Vikings, none more so than the crazy set of circumstances with Adrian Peterson that all started just two days before they were set to play the Patriots. You can’t tell me that didn’t throw the game plan into a tizzy. Matt Cassel looked absolutely dreadful and that was one of the most uninspired performances I can ever remember from an NFL team. While I’m not expecting a win in New Orleans, I am expecting Minnesota to put some points on the board trying to keep up with the aforementioned Saints’ offense. Cassel-to-Jennings will get its mojo back and somehow, Jennings will sneak his way into double-digit fantasy points.
Expectation: Top-35 WR
Allen Robinson, WR (JAC) – I mean, someone has to catch the ball for Jacksonville, right? For a team already thin when it came to offensive weapons, having its top three WRs banged up (not to mentioned losing Marcedes Lewis for two months) makes it awfully hard to keep pace with the Colts, but if they hope to do so, it will be on the broad shoulders of Robinson. I’ll take the over on Chad Henne putting the ball in the air 40 times as the Jags just have not been able to move the ball on the ground with Toby Gerhart. The Colts don’t exactly have the most intimidating pass defense and, as I’ve mentioned before, their pass rush becomes much less fearsome without Robert Mathis bearing down on QBs. Even if it’s in garbage time, Jacksonville will be putting the ball up plenty and Robinson will have his first real opportunity to show Jaguar fans his immense potential.
Expectation: Top-50 WR
DeAngelo Williams, RB (CAR) – In Week 1, I gave you Justin Forsett. In Week 2, it was Darren McFadden. This week’s Totino’s Bold Call of the Week at RB is DeAngelo Williams. And in case you’re wondering, Totino’s has absolutely no affiliation with this whatsoever, I could just really go for some pizza rolls right now. The cringeworthyness of putting McFadden in this space last week is nearly met with my inclusion of Williams, but allow me to speak on behalf of the beleaguered Panthers’ RB. Pittsburgh has been terrible against the run so far this year and I don’t expect that to change with the multi-dimensional rushing attack of the Panthers due up next. Williams was quite productive against an underrated Tampa Bay defense in Week 1, garnering 14 carries and averaging over five yards per attempt. Despite missing last week’s game, Williams has been practicing and is expected to play Sunday night. If you’re worried about the risk, then by all means go out and add Jonathan Stewart as well. If it comes down later in the week that Williams isn’t going to play, then I reserve the right to make Stewart my desperation play of the week instead. Hey, it’s my column. I can do whatever I please. Now, where are those pizza rolls at?
Expectation: Top-35 RB
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