“Round Robinson”: FLEXual Tension (The RB/WR Hot List for Week 5)
I am a height supremacist.
For those of you that watch The League (and anybody who plays fantasy football should, it’s hilarious), this was the title of a recent episode in which Jenny is proven to have a subconscious prejudice against short people and smaller players on her fantasy team, Darren Sproles in particular. Jenny tried to right her fantasy karma and prove that she was not vertically biased, but as with most episodes of The League, the best laid plans go awry. After getting Sproles to accompany her daughter to the school dance, Jenny’s bias rears it’s ugly head yet again and causes her not only to make a lopsided trade (Vincent Jackson for Tavon Austin), but she offends Sproles time and time again, further reinforcing to everyone her slant against the vertically challenged. I reference this episode because as I watched the slate of games this past Sunday, I had an epiphany. I have been guilty of discounting the small
fries guys as well.
For Jenny, it was Darren Sproles, but for me, there is one player who I have failed to give the proper respect, and that’s Antonio Brown. Look, it’s not as if I said the guy couldn’t play or anything, he’s a star. But when I think of the truly great receivers in today’s NFL, I think of the Calvin, I think of Julio, I think of Demaryius, I think of A.J. Green. The common denominator with every one of these guys is that they are physical beasts. Impressive size to go with top-shelf speed. When I think of my stud WR1, these are my prototypes.
In one league in particular, I had a draft day choice between Alshon Jeffery and Antonio Brown. No surprise, I took Jeffery, the #2 WR on his own team, ahead of Brown. I suspect I’m not the only one who did so either, but I was enamored by the physical traits I saw with Jeffery. Needless to say, this was the wrong choice. Antonio Brown leads all WRs in fantasy points in 2014. That’s right, a 5’10” 186-pound Brown is the #1 WR in fantasy through four weeks. And if we’re redrafting today, the argument can be made he needs to be selected as such.
I’d still probably take Calvin ahead of him, but he’d be the only WR I’d even consider before Brown, and that’s still a close call. Think about what you want out of your top picks. You want big games? Brown has posted 15+ points in six of his last 11 contests. You want consistency? In the last 20 games, he has registered five catches and 50 yards in every single one of them. You want a PPR monster? In that same 20-game timespan, Brown has 139 catches and nearly 2,000 yards. Don’t forget about the 12 TDs in his last 13 games. Or that he’s only missed three games since the start of the 2011 season. There is absolutely nothing not to love here.
So consider this my formal apology to you, Mr. Brown. I read the book by its cover and it’s coming back to bite me. You’ve already gashed me in matchups so far this season, and not only do I expect it to continue, I deserve what I get. I never should have sold you short — oh goodness, there I go again. I mean, I never should have overlooked you — gah, I’m sorry. Look, this is obviously going to take some time, but I promise to work on it. You’re not just good, Mr. Brown. You’re not just great. You, sir, are a fantasy giant.
But Brown, wasn’t the only little man to produce big time results in Week 4. Let’s take a look at my calls from last week to see where I was right, and where I have some ‘splainin to do.
Week 4 Hits:
Keenan Allen – Standard scoring: 13.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 28.9 pts
Lamar Miller – Standard scoring: 16.7 pts; MLFS scoring: 15.7 pts
Steve Smith, Sr. – Standard scoring: 25.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 38.9 pts
Reggie Wayne – Standard scoring: 17.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 27.9 pts
Jerick McKinnon – Standard scoring: 15.2 pts; MLFS scoring: 19.6 pts
Week 4 Misses:
Donald Brown – Standard scoring: 5.4 pts; MLFS scoring: 7.4 pts
Khiry Robinson – Standard scoring: 10.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 12.5 pts
Anquan Boldin – Standard scoring: 6.2 pts; MLFS scoring: 11.2 pts
Jordan Matthews – Standard scoring: 2.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 6.8 pts
James Starks – Standard scoring: 0 pts; MLFS scoring: 0 pts
When you’re talking trash about your Week 4 opponent in the opening game of the season, there’s a good chance you’re going to bring your “A” game when you face them. Knowing Steve Smith and the way he plays, I find it hard to believe that anyone out there doubted what he might do when he faced his former club. Sure, one of his two TDs was a bit fluky on a tipped pass, but take away that 61-yarder and he still ends the day with six catches for 78 yards and a TD. There’s nothing fluky at all about his level of production or his rapport with Joe Flacco. That being said, if you drafted Smith you probably got him as your WR4 and are loaded at the position, so why not use his unexpected hot start in the trade market? Smith isn’t going to fall off a cliff anytime soon, but staying healthy and performing at this clip going forward is hard to assume. If you need him in your starting lineup, roll with him and be confident in doing so. Those who are good at WR, now is the time to sell as his value will never be higher.
You might not be able to see it, but I am puffing my chest out over the game Jerick McKinnon just had. Over the last two weeks, I’ve mentioned his name not just in my previous article, but also on our Sunday pregame radio show and in an interactive chat this past weekend. It’s fair to say McKinnon is to my fantasy football game what Nina Dobrev is to my celebrity crush game: the new hotness I can’t get enough of. While everyone was fawning over Matt Asiata’s three-TD explosion, I was reveling in McKinnon’s 7.5 YPC (vs. Asiata’s 3.9) and the flashes of brilliance I saw from him. He’s a gamebreaker, ladies and gentlemen, something Asiata will never be confused for. The volume McKinnon got in this game was certainly a function of the Falcons woeful run defense, and you can’t expect double-digit touches each and every week. But McKinnon will continue to carve out a bigger piece of the pie going forward as he earns coaches’ trust in the pass game and in blitz pickup. If you’re an Asiata owner relying on his production, McKinnon is your #1 pickup of the week. Everyone else should be trying to snatch him up as well as his lottery ticket potential has now been displayed.
In terms of my RB misses this week, much of it came down to opportunity and what you did with it. Khiry came up just short of the top-15 designation I had him penciled in for, which isn’t bad considering he only received 10 touches in this game. Donald Brown followed up his 2.0 YPC against Buffalo with a 1.9 YPC effort in what looked to be a fantastic matchup against Jacksonville. He was somewhat active in the passing game (4 Rec, 35 Yds) but many a fantasy owner were disappointed by this showing. If Brown can’t step it up this week, and it will be a daunting task against a strong Jets front, he won’t be seeing anywhere near the kind of volume you expected him to get with Ryan Mathews out with an injury.
Starks, however, got the worst of it as he only saw the field for one snap on Sunday against the Bears. It’s not as if Eddie Lacy was out there tearing it up either. Lacy had just 48 yards rushing on 17 carries and was bailed out by getting into the end zone. Fact is, this Green Bay offensive line looks just plain awful as a run blocking unit, which is why the Pack deferred to Aaron Rodgers most of the day. My expectations on Lacy in the preseason were top-5 but now, I don’t see any way he can be inside the top-10 and he still has room left to fall. If Lacy doesn’t show something tonight against Minnesota, I think he sheds the buy-low label many are tagging him with and jumps straight to first-round fantasy bust status.
With a quarter of the season now in the books, time to look forward and see who will shine this week. A lot of options to choose from as only two teams are on a bye (well, one team and the Raiders), so let’s get into the Week 5 edition of the Hot List:
Vincent Jackson, WR (TB) – I swear this isn’t my height bias trying to creep up again. Honest. This is simply me trying to convince you not to give up on Vincent Jackson. Don’t be fooled by last week’s 3-for-32 output. The important stat is that he was targeted 10 times by new signal-caller Mike Glennon, who is known for force feeding it to Jackson. On the season, Jackson is 13th in the entire NFL in targets and one of only two players in the top 30 of receiving targets whose catch rate is under 50% (Jeremy Maclin is the other). At some point, all those targets are going to result in one of Jackson’s trademark monster games, and I think that stands a better chance of happening with Glennon slinging him the rock rather than McCown. Tampa Bay is traveling to New Orleans this week to take on the fifth-most generous defense in points to opposing WRs, so no time like the present for V-Jax to finally emerge in 2014.
Expectation: Top-16 WR
Kelvin Benjamin, WR (CAR) – This one I can guarantee has absolutely nothing to do with my height bias. This is actually my players-that-went-to-schools-I-either-attended-or-enrolled-at bias on full display. Benjamin, the former Seminole, has been an absolute beast on the outside this year, giving the Panthers that big target they’ve always wanted for Cam Newton. Since Cam has been reluctant/unable to run and with every Carolina RB this side of DeShaun Foster being banged up this year, the Panthers have had to rely more on the passing game than in recent years. You know Benjamin has been good, but do you realize he’s the seventh highest scoring fantasy WR this season? He’s an every week must-start and it’s no exception against the Bears who were just torched by Jordy Nelson and the Pack. There’s no Peanut Tillman in Chicago, who slot in just behind the Saints as the sixth-worst against fantasy WRs, and nobody that can matchup with the physical prowess of Benjamin. This is just the beginning for KB.
Expectation: Top-12 WR
Chris Ivory, RB (NYJ) – Among the hottest of the running back sleepers in the preseason was Chris Johnson and I just didn’t understand the love. I thought it was pretty evident that the artist formerly known as CJ2K had lost a step or two (or three or four). Now this isn’t me trying to pile on those who did advocate for Johnson (I was too busy waving the Toby Gerhart flag in the preseason – ugh), but it’s time to move on from him and accept that Ivory is not only the back to own in the Jets’ backfield, but also a substantial contributor to your fantasy team. Any RB that has posted at least nine fantasy points per game through the first month of the season is a useful commodity, and while nine might not sound like a lot, it means Ivory has yet to have a week where he cost you your matchup. Although the Chargers defense looks pretty stout against the run on the surface (just 97 yards surrendered per game), they are giving up 4.5 YPC, 12th-worst in the league. With all the turmoil surrounding the QB position for Gang Green, they would be wise to hammer Ivory in between the tackles as much as possible to give Geno Smith the best possible chance at success.
Expectation: Top-16 RB
Ben Tate, RB (CLE) – If Ben Tate is starting for the Browns, I’m saying a little prayer that he can stay healthy for an entire game, then slotting him into my starting lineup. Mike Pettine already came out and said that when he’s good to go, Tate is the starting running back in Cleveland. While this could be just window dressing for what turns into a three-headed RBBC, I expect Tate to get at least half of the carries for the Browns, with Crowell and West splitting the scraps. In a matchup against Tennessee, who has allowed the second-most TD to running backs this season behind only Atlanta, a steady diet of the run game is the recipe for success this week. Start Tate as your RB2 and cross your fingers he’s there at the final gun.
Expectation: Top-24 RB
Brian Quick, WR (STL) – While not exactly the Greatest Show on Turf, Austin Davis has done a respectable job at QB for the Rams and will again get the call against the Eagles. His favorite target on the outside has been Quick, who is averaging five catches and almost 80 yards a game through three contests. The Eagles have given up the fourth-most points to opposing WRs while allowing the fourth-fewest to opposing TEs, so expect plenty of targets to head Quick’s way, especially if the Rams find themselves trailing late in the game. Quick might not be a household name, but I expect him to outperform a few mainstays such as DeSean Jackson, Eric Decker and Dwayne Bowe.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Jeremy Hill, RB (CIN) – Everybody has been raving about Giovani Bernard this year and for good reason. You can’t argue with 111 yards per game and three TDs. That’s top-5 material right there. But Gio’s not the only back in the Queen City that’s been fantasy relevant this year. Jeremy Hill is averaging over five yards per carry on the young season and has already hit pay dirt twice in three games. The Bengals roll into suddenly floundering New England fresh off a bye while the Patriots are up against a short week. We just saw the 1-2 punch of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis dump truck the Pats’ defense all night and I’d be surprised if Cincinnati diverted from that game plan. Bernard is currently averaging over 22 touches a game so I expect the Bengals to lean a little more on Hill in order to keep that number manageable. 12-15 touches for Hill could easily result in 60+ yards and a TD this week.
Expectation: Top-30 RB
Markus Wheaton, WR (PIT) – Quietly, very quietly, Wheaton is off to a respectable start in Pittsburgh with 227 yards receiving and at least four catches in every game this season. For comparison’s sake, fantasy darling Eddie Royal has just nine more receiving yards on the season than does Wheaton. The difference, of course, is that while Royal has found the end zone four times, Wheaton has yet to do a touchdown dance in 2014. The Steelers opponent this week, Jacksonville, just happens to have let the aforementioned Royal score twice last week as they made an all-out attempt to shut down the run. I expect similar results this week as the Jaguars gear up for Le’Veon Bell and the impressive Pittsburgh ground game. Big Ben should see plenty of opportunities to get the ball not just to Antonio Brown, but Wheaton as well and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if his first TD of the season comes this Sunday.
Expectation: Top-30 WR
Denard Robinson, RB (JAC) – For the third week in a row, the Robinson family tree makes an appearance on the Hot List. Makes me think now is as good a time as ever for a reunion. After good showings from Allen and Khiry in previous weeks, my uncle’s cousin’s nephew by marriage Denard finally gets his time in the spotlight. Toby Gerhart has been absolutely awful for the Jags this season and has seen his usage decrease as a result. In turn, Robinson has seen an uptick in his touches the last two weeks, including 12 last week against the Chargers. Granted, those 12 touches only netted him 32 total yards, but Jacksonville seems set on splitting the workload rather than letting Gerhart assume the role of the workhorse, and who can blame them. Pittsburgh has been better against the run in their last two games, although that could just be a function of who they were facing (Carolina, Tampa Bay). In the same vein as Justin Forsett, Darren McFadden and Jerick Mckinnon before him, Denard Robinson could very well be my next deep sleeper to become fantasy relevant.
Expectation: Top-40 RB
Marvin Jones, WR (CIN) – A name that has been all but forgotten, Marvin Jones should make his return to the field this Sunday for the Bengals after missing the first three games with a broken foot. Remember, Jones is coming off a 10-TD season and is a red zone staple for Andy Dalton. He probably won’t get a ton of snaps this week as the Bengals ease him back into the fold, a luxury they have due to Mohamed Sanu’s strong play to start the year, but it only takes one shot to the end zone to make Jones a respectable option. Expectations should be tempered against the Patriots on Sunday, however now is the time to pick up Jones as he will reassume that coveted #2 spot across from A.J. Green before long.
Expectation: Top-50 WR
Joseph Randle, RB (DAL) – I’m going a little off the grid here to talk about the Dallas run game. If we’re redrafting today, the consensus #1 overall pick has to be DeMarco Murray. Four consecutive games with 100+ yards and at least one TD gets you that kind of recognition. The Cowboys have (finally) committed to running the football behind a dominant offensive line that boasts three first-round picks and are reaping the benefits. Murray’s talent has never really come into question, it’s always been his health that made him a question mark. Using a little left-brain logic, one has to assume that the most valuable handcuff this year is the guy who stands to benefit from being the understudy to an injury-prone starter and running behind arguably the best O-line in football. Enter Randle, who despite being third on the team in RB touches, stands to benefit the most should Murray miss time. He, not Lance Dunbar, would be relied upon as the team’s workhorse and vault to RB2 status at the very least. Understand that I am in no way recommending you start Randle this week as he has just nine carries on the season, but he could end up being very, very valuable at some point this season.
Expectation: He needs to be off the waiver wire… now
That’ll do it for this week, but the conversation never ends. Find me on Twitter @sharpshot3ball if you have any lineup or trade questions you’re struggling with. Good luck in Week 5, and once more for good measure, I’m sorry Antonio.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday October 5th from 11am-12pm EST for this week’s installment of Major League Fantasy Football Radio sponsored by theSports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596. Our guests this week will be Andy Macuga who is the head football coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in CA. Jeff Nelson will also be joining us who is the DB Coach for White Hall H.S. in PA. Andy is an offensive minded coach and Jeff is a defensive minded coach so it should make for a great discussion. Andy and Jeff are both owners inMajor League Fantasy Football and Major League Fantasy Baseball. We will be taking questions about offensive players, individual defensive players, team defenses/special teams, as well as daily fantasy plays. Take full advantage!