“Round Robinson”: FLEXual Tension (The RB/WR Hot List for Week 4)
I’m a glutton for punishment.
I can’t help myself. I love when things get difficult and my back is against the wall. There are those that shrink under the pressure and those that rise above it. I’ve always considered myself part of the latter. The harder a challenge is, the more I relish the thought of defeating it. So while it might be a little demented on my part, it’s really no surprise that one of my favorite words in the fantasy football vernacular makes its first appearance this week:
For most of us, then is when the season truly begins. And kudos to the NFL schedule makers because they didn’t ease any of us into it. A six-team bye week right out of the gate and there are some doozies among them. The Cardinals, Bengals, Broncos, Seahawks, Browns and Rams all sit this week. So no Demaryius, no Giovani, no Percy, no A.J., no Emmanuel, no Fitz, no Floyd, no Ellington and a handful of others right off the bat. If you’re like me, you see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to make some sneaky pickups. An opportunity to hit the trade market hard. An opportunity to really dig into some tasty matchups.
But I know not everyone looks forward to these kinds of weeks as much as I do. There are those who dread having to maneuver their roster to fill the holes. There are also those who are sitting at 0-3 and have already thrown their hands in the air in disgust. To those folks who already think the year is over and have given up all hope, I have just one word for you:
If you’re already throwing in the towel now, I got no time for you. This is the part of the season where you get to be creative and think outside the box. A perfect example was a buddy and league mate of mine last year whose team was struggling but he had Peyton Manning as his QB. To fill in the gaps with the rest of his roster, he essentially auctioned off Peyton to the highest bidder and received quite a haul back in return as you would expect (Antonio Brown, Arian Foster, Philip Rivers). That single move turned around his team so dramatically that he landed in our league championship game (I’m humble so I won’t say who beat him for the title). Point is, he took a bold risk and it paid off in spades. Don’t be afraid to do the same. Trade a stud for a couple slow starters. Alter your starting lineup. Make some off-the-grid wire pickups. If you need a little push, don’t worry, I’ve got your back with a few deep sleepers this week to get you started. But as always, let’s take one more look back at my Week 3 calls and what you can take from them.
Week 3 Hits:
Knile Davis: Standard scoring: 17.2 pts; MLFS scoring: 17.15 pts
Pierre Garçon: Standard scoring: 19.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 38.65 pts
Greg Jennings: Standard scoring: 7.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 12.0 pts
Allen Robinson: Standard scoring: 7.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 15.9 pts
Week 3 Misses:
Stevan Ridley: Standard scoring: 6.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 7.1 pts
Joique Bell: Standard scoring: 3.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.3 pts
Marques Colston: Standard scoring: 8.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.5 pts
T.Y. Hilton: Standard scoring: 8.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 13.0 pts (left w/ ankle injury)
Bobby Rainey: Standard scoring: 6.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 6.5 pts
DeAngelo Williams Jonathan Stewart: Standard scoring: 5.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.0 pts (left w/ knee injury)
We start with the good, and if you are a Pierre Garçon owner, it was very, very good. Like I told you last week, the best quarterback for Jay Gruden’s offense in Washington is (clearly) Kirk Cousins. Remember, we all dog Andy Dalton but he was a top-5 QB under Gruden last year in Cincinnati. While not every week will be a shootout the likes of what we just saw between Washington and Philadelphia, Cousins’ play gives the pass catchers much more optimism of a ball being delivered on time and on the spot. All of a sudden, I feel much better about the prospects of not only Garçon, but also a healthy DeSean Jackson and whoever is manning the TE position, whether that’s Niles Paul or Jordan Reed. Their defense, while stout against the run so far in 2014, is abominable against the pass and just lost DeAngelo Hall for the season. If you believe in a poor defense leading to more opportunities for a passing offense, hard not to like the confluence of factors in Washington right now.
A common thread ties both Jennings and Robinson together this week, and it has nothing to do with their performances in Week 3, or does it? When the Vikings and Jaguars take the field for late Sunday kicks, both will do so with rookie QBs and, presumably, the future of their respective franchises under center. While I don’t think either signal-caller necessitates a start in fantasy, they do make the other offensive weapons more intriguing, especially in Jacksonville. Injuries might dictate who gets the call each week for the Jags, but there is definitely some potential in this wide receiving corps. If I had to guess who stands to benefit the most from Bortles taking over, I think it’s Robinson and Hurns as they got to build a rapport with the Central Florida rookie during the preseason, but this is a situation worth monitoring if you’re in need of WR help. Looks like there will be a lot of garbage time in Florida this year and these two might end up being the best sanitation engineers you can find.
The scoreboard might say I got six out of ten wrong this week, but in my mind, there were only three calls that were truly swings and whiffs. When it comes to Ridley, Colston and Bell, sorry America. Turned out that “looks too good to be true” really was too good to be true. But Hilton and Stewart were well on their way to turning in respective fantasy days before they were nicked up. The Panthers really looked to be leaning on Stewart early in the second half and you could see the visible frustration on his face when he went down after averaging over six yards per carry against the Steelers. The bigger takeaway is that the Carolina Panthers’ backfield is once again fantasy relevant and, as much as it might pain you to do so, you’d better not ignore it. Mike Tolbert, one of the great TD vultures of our time, is out for the season. And Cam Newton just isn’t Cam Newton, at least not as a runner. He took another big hit in this one and came up gimpy, and I don’t expect to see the Cam we’ve come to know and love from a fantasy perspective. The Panthers don’t have the best matchup this week going up against the Ravens, but with J-Stew dealing with that sprained knee, DeAngelo Williams could get as many touches as we’ve seen a back in Carolina get in quite some time.
And then there’s Bobby Rainey. Look, if you had anyone tied to the Tampa Bay offense last Thursday, you came away with a bad taste in your mouth. But look a little deeper and you realize that Rainey’s day wasn’t nearly as bad as you think it was. Despite the two fumbles, he still ended up with 105 total yards including seven catches for 64 yards. What was most telling to me was that after he coughed it up a second time, the Bucs didn’t immediately go to Mike James and still had the confidence in Rainey to put him on the field. Yes, this did happen in the second half of an absolute runaway, but wouldn’t that be even more of a reason for Lovie Smith to sit his turnover prone back for the duration? I take this as a positive sign going forward that Rainey is still the preferred runner with a good matchup against Pittsburgh on deck. When given the choice between he and Doug Martin, I still forecast Rainey days ahead in Tampa.
With the past all taken care of, we now look to the future for the Week 4 edition of the Hot List. As mentioned above, six teams on bye this week so make sure your lineups have no holes in them. Away we go with a WR who has disappointed as much as any in 2014:
Keenan Allen, WR (SD) – 12 catches for 109 yards sounds like a pretty solid week. Problem is, those are Keenan Allen’s numbers over the first three weeks combined. Yeesh. I had my reservations when it came to Allen after he became very touchdown dependent to end last season, but I certainly didn’t think things would be this putrid. Other pass catchers have shared the spotlight to start 2014, with Gates, Floyd and Royal each posting a double-digit fantasy game. With Jacksonville coming to town, I have to believe this is the week we see Allen get his first taste of fantasy glory. I’m not panicking on him yet considering the three stout defenses the Chargers have faced, especially with a favorable schedule approaching after this game (vs. NYJ, @OAK, vs. KC). Could be one of the best buy-low targets of the season.
Expectation: Top-12 WR
Lamar Miller, RB (MIA) – Cheerio, lad! That’s my subtle way of reminding you that this “road” game for the Dolphins isn’t in Oakland, but in jolly old London. To be honest, this game could’ve been played in Oakland, London or Atlantis and I’d still recommend Miller as one of the best RB plays of the week. The Raiders are allowing almost 160 yards per game on the ground and Miami is second in the league with a 5.2 YPC average. With Knowshon Moreno out, Miller got 19 touches last week and turned that into 132 total yards. If you need another side to the equation, Ryan Tannehill is completing just 56.5% of his passes through three games and I can’t imagine the Dolphins want to see him air it out 40+ times for a third game in a row. Games in London feel like they’re a sloppy affair which lends itself to a little more of the ground game, so there’s no reason not to expect Miller to get and exceed 20 touches in this matchup.
Expectation: Top-10 RB
Donald Brown, RB (SD) – “When opportunity knocks, you better let him in and sit him on down and try to be his friend”, or so says one of the great 20th century philosophers… Coolio. Opportunity hasn’t just knocked on Donald Brown’s door, it’s kicked the door completely down. No Ryan Mathews, no Danny Woodhead and the Chargers just happen to be at home against the league’s worst rush defense. Overlook the measly 2.0 YPC Brown posted against Buffalo. That’s a very tough defensive front to run against and Jacksonville will offer no such resistance. I’ll take the under on a repeat of the 36 touches Brown got in that game. No running back is holding up under that kind of workload. But 25 touches still sounds reasonable and in today’s game, there aren’t too many backs assured of that kind of volume.
Expectation: Top-12 RB
Khiry Robinson, RB (NO) – I take it as a family responsibility to point out any favorable matchups for those in the Robinson clan. Last week, I told you my third cousin Allen would have a nice game and this week, it’s my stepbrother once-removed on my father’s side Khiry that is in line for a productive day. He toted the rock 18 times against Minnesota in Week 3 and if he gets that same number of carries versus the Cowboys, the total yardage will be considerably more than the 69 he was able to manage last week. Yes, I’m on the hook for saying the New Orleans offense would explode in their home opener which didn’t turn out to be the case. I’m doubling down on that bet this week in Dallas and fully expect Khiry to punch in at least one short TD against a defense that just made the Rams look like an offensive juggernaut.
Expectation: Top-15 RB
Steve Smith Sr., WR (BAL) – If there is anyone, anyone, that I wouldn’t want holding a grudge against me, it’s Steve Smith. Dude plays angry. He runs angry. He stiff arms angry. He even fights his own teammates at practice angry. Can you imagine how angry he’s going to be when he faces the team that cut him after 13 years? I could give you all the requisite numbers on how he, not Torrey Smith, leads the team in targets and is the unquestioned #1 WR in Baltimore. I could tell you that losing Dennis Pitta to injury means the Ravens will have to rely on Smith even more. That’s all well and good. But Steve Smith wants to make a statement against the Panthers. A very loud, very resounding statement to a team that moved on from him that he still has plenty left in the tank. Good luck bringing him down after the catch, Carolina. You’re going to need it.
Expectation: Top-18 WR
Reggie Wayne, WR (IND) – While a matchup against the Titans might not be considered fantasy friendly, boy oh boy has Andrew Luck and the Colts passing game looked good so far. They’re a tough cover for any defense considering all the weapons they can throw at you. Luck’s favorite weapon though is still the sure-handed Reggie Wayne. Considering that Wayne has had two subpar games in a row, last week’s in part to the runaway nature of that win, and that T.Y. Hilton is slowed by that ankle injury, I expect Wayne to again receive double-digit targets in this one. He’ll be his typical consistent self for PPRers, but standard leaguers should start him as a WR2 and feel good about doing so.
Expectation: Top-24 WR
Anquan Boldin, WR (SF) – Yet another oldie but a goodie, Boldin, like Wayne, has underperformed in his last two after a strong opening contest. But Boldin is the consummate pro and always seems to show up when his team needs him too. This week, the 49ers will definitely be looking for a big performance as they try to keep up with Chip Kelly’s Eagles in the bay area. The way to do that is through the air as Philadelphia is currently third-worst in the NFL against the pass and in giving up points to opposing fantasy WRs. You’re already starting Michael Crabtree as a borderline WR1 in this matchup, but don’t forget about Boldin as this is a prime week for him to get his first TD of the season.
Expectation: Top-30 WR
Jordan Matthews, WR (PHI) – Sticking with this 49ers-Eagles matchup, I submit to you the second best WR on the Eagles this year. No, it’s definitely not Riley Cooper, it’s Jordan Matthews. He had his coming out party last week against Washington with eight catches and two touchdowns and I expect that momentum to carry over in this one. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the 49ers defense is no longer the 49ers defense. I just told you the Eagles are the third most generous when it comes to points against opposing wideouts. Well, one of the two teams in a more giving mood than they are happens to be San Francisco. John Brown just torched the Niners for two TDs out of the slot for Arizona in Week 3, so there should be plenty of chances for Matthews to prove he’s more than a one-week wonder.
Expectation: Top-36 WR
James Starks, RB (GB) – Now we really get to the deep league fodder. I’ll admit, I’m apprehensive about this pick as the Green Bay offense, in particular the offensive line, has looked dreadful to start the season. A closer look will show you that they have had one of the most brutal schedules of any team to start the season (@SEA, vs. NYJ, @DET). Hard to get excited about any running game when facing that triumvirate of teams, but the Packers get a respite this week in a trip to Chicago. If you own Eddie Lacy, you have to put him out there and expect results, but James Starks is worth a look as well. He’s carved out a decent role in this offense (15 carries vs. Lacy’s 36) and, while Lacy is hovering around three yards per attempt, Starks is averaging a tidy 5.0 YPC. If ball security again becomes an issue for Lacy, Starks could see his 1/3 share of the carries increase and sneak his way into the end zone for a decent day.
Expectation: Top-40 RB
Jerick McKinnon, RB (MIN) – I mentioned his name this past week on Major League Fantasy Football Radio and I’ll again tout him here. Without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings are devoid of playmakers other than Cordarelle Patterson. With Teddy Bridgewater supplanting Matt Cassel as the starter, he’s going to need all the help he can get from the skill positions. Norv Turner typically gets the ball into the hands of guys capable of making plays and when it comes to the RB position, the most accurate adjective to describe Matt Asiata’s running style is plodding. Hardly a high recommendation there. Meanwhile, McKinnon has the potential to make a few big plays a game if he can find his way on to the field. I don’t know if it will be this week, next week or next month, but at some point Turner has to unleash McKinnon and try to give the Minnesota offense a shot in the arm it desperately needs. A home date with Atlanta might be the first, best time to do so. Pick up McKinnon now if you’ve got a roster spot you can be patient with as I expect dividends to come in the future.
Expectation: Top-50 RB
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday September 28th from 11am-12pm EST for another episode of Major League Fantasy Football Radio sponsored by the Sports PaloozaRadio Network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596 Feel free to call in and ask us for an opinion on any tough line up decisions you have. Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports, a writer for Major League Fantasy Sports, and an owner in MLFF4 & MLFB2. Real Deal Dynasty Sports is a partner organization of MLFS. We welcome all callers and questions pertaining to offense, defense, special teams, or individual defensive players