“Round Robinson”: FLEXual Tension (The RB/WR Hot List for Week 8)
It’s about time we shook things up a bit.
The Seahawks certainly took that to heart when they dealt Percy Harvin to the Jets in a move that caught just about everyone off guard. I’m sure by now you’ve read plenty of exposition on the ramifications of that deal from a fantasy perspective, so I’ll save my thoughts on the matter (for the time being).
What Seattle and New York did is exactly what fantasy owners should be doing at this point in the season. We’re at the midway point of the fantasy regular season and it’s time to position yourself for the end game, and that means everyone’s favorite word: Trades. But how you trade is dependent on where your team is in the standings. Right now, you fall into one of two categories that can be aptly represented by the teams involved in last week’s blockbuster.
If you’re steamrolling towards the playoffs and dreams of a fantasy championship, you’re very much like the Seahawks. Despite their .500 record through six games, I’m sure they, like most of us, still look at their team as a Super Bowl contender. The Harvin move was a strategic one they hope shores up their locker room and gives them a greater opportunity for a deep playoff run. Similarly, if your team has come out of the gates strong, you’re thinking about making that one move, adding that final piece, to put your team over the top.
On the other hand, there are those among us whose teams more resemble the trainwreck of the Jets. Although I can’t see Gang Green making a push for the postseason, just about every fantasy team still has hopes of turning it around and making a late-season push. Most struggling fantasy squads have multiple holes in their roster, holes that can be plugged by jettisoning a star player at the peak of their value in return for multiple contributors.
For the next two weeks, the Hot List will give you a guide to the fantasy trade market. There are some players who are worth eyeing if you’re looking to cement your team as a true powerhouse, and others that should be dealt now to make up for deficiencies elsewhere. In honor of the Percy Harvin deal, we’ll tackle the wide receiver side of things this week and finish it up next Thursday with a look at the running backs worthy of buy or sell status. But take these suggestions for what they’re worth. I’m not claiming the WRs to buy will all be world beaters just like I’m not saying the ones to sell will fall off the table. This is a study in value and its relation to future expectations. With the rules in place, let’s kick things off with a trio of wideouts you should be looking to acquire, aptly called my:
THREE TO RECEIVE:
Calvin Johnson, DET – The best thing to happen to Megatron was the decision to sit him down a few weeks and get him back to 100%. Otherwise, you were looking at Roddy White from last year where he gave it a go every week and was nothing more than a high-priced decoy. Odds are Johnson is out for another two weeks, making his return Week 10 against the Dolphins. Not that he needs a friendly schedule, but it doesn’t get much better than what Detroit sees after their bye week. He’ll be back to top-3 status after that and this is the last opportunity you have to get him at a slightly discounted price, especially from an owner who needs help now.
Pierre Garçon, WAS – Garçon was heavily discussed on the most recent episode of Major League Fantasy Football Radio ([34:40] mark is where you can find it) as he’s been supremely frustrating to own. After two strong games and four subpar efforts, Garçon had a strong showing against the Titans, mostly on the receiving end of targets from Colt McCoy. McCoy will be the starter again this Sunday, but more importantly, Robert Griffin is nearing his return to the field. Griffin and Garçon kept up their strong rapport from last year in Week 1 (10 catches, 77 yards) and I expect that to be the case when RGIII gets back under center. Garçon is viewed by many as a high-end WR3 but I expect him to get back firmly in that WR2 conversation sooner rather than later.
Percy Harvin, NYJ – For all those who think a move to New York kills Percy Harvin’s fantasy value, look at what he’d done in Seattle so far this year. His fantasy value was already on life support as it is, and I think switching coasts resuscitates his outlook. The Jets are devoid of playmakers and will find ways to get Harvin the ball, but won’t limit him to the bubble screens and gadget plays the Seahawks were so fond of. But there’s another angle I want to approach this from. I think it’s important to remember that there is no guaranteed money left on Harvin’s deal after this season, meaning should he tank, the Jets could cut him before next season with no financial implication. That should give him all the motivation he needs to silence his critics, and I believe he will. You can get him right now for a song, maybe as a throw-in on another deal, and he offers borderline top-20 upside for your trouble. Not worth the risk if you’re Seattle, but worth the risk to me. Time to flip the script and look at a triumvirate who you should think about throwing on the trade block, affectionately known as my:
THREE TO RELIEVE:
Julio Jones, ATL – The idea here is we’re looking for a WR who can net you the greatest return in a trade that won’t live up to the price you can sell him at right now. Jones is seen as a top-5 receiver who I think could very well miss the top-10 the rest of the way. The Falcons have struggled away from the Georgia Dome and don’t get their next batch of home cooking until Week 12. Matt Ryan has been running for his life thanks to the decimation of his offensive line. This week they get the Lions in London and that front four is going to harass and batter Ryan all game long. Jones is still going to be an elite receiver and have very good fantasy numbers, but taking those factors into account, if I can mortgage Jones now to fill two or three spots in my lineup, it might just be a desperation play worth making.
Mike Wallace, MIA – I’ve had a few questions lately as to whether Randall Cobb was a sell-high due to his inflated touchdown numbers and low yardage totals. My response had consistently been no and, thanks to a monster game against Carolina, I think those questions have been put to rest. One receiver I think is a little too touchdown dependent for my liking is Mike Wallace. TDs in five of six contests mask the fact that Wallace has yet to record more than 81 yards or reach even 13 fantasy points in any single game. Now he’s being labeled as a top-15 WR or better in some cases and I just don’t buy it. I’ll go so far as to say he doesn’t score another five touchdowns the rest of the season. He does have a nice interstate matchup with Jacksonville this week, so perhaps I hold for one more week, then flip him for a tidy little profit.
Josh Gordon, CLE – This is the moment of truth. If you’ve been sitting on Gordon, waiting for his Week 12 return, this is the moment you have to pick a side. If you’re looking good for the playoffs, there’s no doubt in my mind you wait for his comeback. Anyone else, you have a choice to make. If you wait to deal him much longer, I don’t think the piece(s) you get back will have enough time to make the impact you need them to. Spinning Gordon now gives you a four-week head start on any contributions he might make in your lineup, and could be just the boost you need to get your fledgling squad back up off the mat. Plus, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that he’ll step back on the field and immediately get back to 2013 levels of production. But there’s going to be someone out there who is enticed enough by his potential to throw something worthwhile back your way, so make sure you advertise to your entire league that Gordon is available and see who bites.
A whole lot to chew on right there, so as you digest it, we’ll take a quick look at my all-sleeper picks from Week 7. As always, there were some good and bad calls, but more importantly, plenty of takeaways from a very surprising slate of games.
Week 7 Hits:
Bernard Pierce – Standard scoring: 8.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.1 pts
Allen Robinson – Standard scoring: 12.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 16.0 pts
Anthony Dixon – Standard scoring: 6.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 9.6 pts
Cordarelle Patterson – Standard scoring: 7.2 pts; MLFS scoring: 11.2 pts
Week 7 Misses:
James Jones – Standard scoring: 3.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 7.5 pts
Brandin Cooks – Standard scoring: 2.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 5.8 pts
Jeremy Hill – Standard scoring: 1.5 pts; MLFS scoring: -0.5 pts
Isaiah Crowell – Standard scoring: 2.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 3.3 pts
Brandon LaFell – Standard scoring: 5.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 9.5 pts
Justin Hunter – Standard scoring: 0.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 1.6 pts
I feel bad for my cousin, Allen Robinson. He has his best fantasy output of the year, scores his first NFL touchdown, and won’t even be the most talked about member of my family in Jacksonville this week. Yes, the Jaguars found themselves a little running game this week courtesy of Denard Robinson. Shoelace ripped off an out-of-nowhere 127 yards and a TD on 22 carries, finally emerging as the RB of record in Jacksonville. For all the mining I’ve done in this backfield, nice to see Robinson break through, even if I was a couple weeks early on him. But I can’t imagine a scenario where he gets close to 20 touches on a weekly basis going forward. This offensive line is still a work in progress and the Jags’ upcoming schedule isn’t as enticing to me as it is to others. He’s a definite add and a consolation prize if you don’t land Tre Mason, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s right back on the wire this time next month. Tread carefully.
Since we’re on the subject of convoluted running back situations, why not make a stop in Buffalo for some wings with a side of confusion. Not only did the Bills lose C.J. Spiller, presumably for the season with a broken collarbone, but Fred Jackson might miss up to four weeks with a groin injury of his own. Anthony Dixon stepped in with 13 carries for 51 yards and three catches for 15 yards in relief, and Bryce Brown is getting plenty of waiver wire love so far. He’s been inactive every game so far this year, but he showed in Philly that he can fill the void when called upon. My problem with both is the Bills schedule over the next month: @NYJ, BYE, vs.KC, @MIA, vs.NYJ. Even if it’s worst case-scenario with Fred Jackson and he does miss the next month or more, there’s very little meat on the bone going up against those defenses. If I’m forced to choose the back who I think has more value while Jackson sits, I’m in the minority when I say it’s Dixon. He might not be as explosive as Brown, but I think he’s earned a modicum of trust from Doug Marrone and will get the first crack as lead back. Again, not crazy excited about either guy, but in a vacuum I say Dixon is the back to own in Buffalo right now.
Onto Week 8’s Hot List, but not before a very important public service announcement. That’s not a misprint on your schedule, DET vs. ATL in London is kicking off at [9:30] AM ET, making me consider if I should make little football shaped pancakes for breakfast. Be sure to set your Lions and Falcons players early that morning, even the night before for all my left coasters. Then sit back and enjoy roughly 14 straight hours of NFL action and, hopefully, generous fantasy returns. Here are my picks for those set to take off in Week 8:
Joique Bell, RB (DET) – My guess is that this will be the last time you see Bell’s name in the Hot List. Much like Ben Tate before him, Bell is dangerously close to gaining must-start status on a weekly basis. For those who’ve been wondering how the Detroit RB situation would shake out, I think we have our clear answer. Bell has gotten 20 touches each of the last two weeks and responded with double-digit fantasy points in each contest. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush managed just nine touches and 18 snaps last Sunday against his former club, the Saints. The Lions now get the juiciest of running back matchups with Atlanta and Joique Bell should be deployed in player eliminator and weekly leagues with confidence. He’s a true RB1 this week.
Expectation: Top-10 RB
Keenan Allen, WR (SD) – Looks like I’m going down with this ship. I can’t help myself. I keep finding reasons to go back even though Keenan Allen has spurned me six out of seven weeks. The one outlier was the last time Allen’s name was in this space when he registered 10 catches and 135 yards. I’m hoping lightning strikes twice and I think it just might. Through his first three games of 2014, Allen was targeted by Philip Rivers just 17 times (5.7 per game). In his last four contests, Allen has been targeted 34 times (8.5 per game) including 10 times last week. The question on everyone’s mind, however, is when is he finally going to score his first touchdown, and my response is this week. Of his 10 career touchdowns (including playoffs), four of those have come in the Chargers’ last two games in Denver. Should be plenty of points on a Thursday night barn burner and Keenan will be “all that” in Week 8.
Expectation: Top-20 WR
Tre Mason, RB (STL) – If you went after a waiver wire running back this week, hopefully Mason is the man you landed. The Auburn rookie took control of the St. Louis backfield situation after an 18 for 85 performance that included his first NFL touchdown. Just as important, Zac Stacy was nowhere to be found and becomes an afterthought at this point. There might be some trepidation in using Mason against Kansas City this week, but I have no such concerns. KC might be giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to RBs, but a lot of that stems from them being just one of two teams yet to allow a score to an opposing rusher (Buffalo is the other). The Chiefs are still allowing 104 yards per game to opposing running backs and a staggering 5.3 YPC. Running back starts to get ugly once you get into the 20s so I have no qualms plugging him straight into your lineup as an RB2 this week.
Expectation: Top-20 RB
Mark Ingram, RB (NO) – If you were a part of this past Saturday’s Reddit Q&A session, then you know how vehemently I opposed starting Mark Ingram. Getting Detroit on the road your first week back is hardly the welcoming party I would choose. A home game with Green Bay should be much more comforting to Ingram owners, especially considering how the snaps were split among the running backs. Khiry Robinson, the black sheep of my family tree last week, got just five snaps after losing a fumble, compared to Ingram who was on the field 25 times. Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet shared the rest of the reps, but I’ll get to that situation a little later. The Saints need to do whatever they can to keep their anemic defense off the field against Aaron Rodgers and that starts with a little more ground and pound. Ingram should see a season-high in touches this week and work his way back into the top-20 conversation.
Expectation: Top-20 RB
Trent Richardson, RB (IND) – Another running back of interest on last Sunday’s MLFF Radio show was Trent Richardson (65:30 mark if you want the full exposition) after I endorsed him as a potential RB2 against the Bengals (and he didn’t disappoint). I didn’t exactly wax poetic about his skill set (let’s be honest, I pretty much trashed his ability), but I couldn’t ignore the sheer volume of touches the Colts seem hell-bent on giving him. Would you believe Richardson is currently ninth in the NFL in carries? Ninth? He is dealing with a minor hamstring injury he suffered against Cincinnati which requires monitoring, but a date with Pittsburgh should keep the momentum rolling if he plays. The Steelers have been gashed by every team that has a serious running game (sorry Carolina, Tampa, Jacksonville) and that should continue here. Ahmad Bradshaw is still the #1 fantasy running back in Indy, but Richardson has made it known he’s a fantasy commodity in his own right.
Expectation: Top-25 RB
Travaris Cadet, RB (NO) – It’s a rare double dip for the Hot List as we again go back to the New Orleans backfield for the best receiving option of the bunch. With Pierre Thomas expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks, Cadet takes over as the third-down back and primary pass catching running back. Don’t expect him to do much more than catch passes as he has just three carries on the season as compared to 16 receptions. In fact, last week when Cadet was in the game, the Saints passed 90% of the time. With all of the terrific RB options on the wire, there’s a good chance this one was skipped over. His ceiling is limited, but Cadet deserves flex consideration for those in PPR leagues.
Expectation: Top-30 PPR RB
Mike Evans, WR (TB) – For all the talk of rookie receivers and the recent success of Watkins, Benjamin and ODB, the forgotten first rounder is Mike Evans. Between his recent groin injury and the irrelevant nature of the Bucs as a team, it’s easy to see why he’s slipped through the cracks. But he deserves to stay on the radar for a couple of reasons. Evans has tallied over 50 yards and a touchdown in each of his last two games played. He’s also seen at least seven targets in four of five games in his rookie season. The Vikings have allowed seven TDs to opposing WRs over the last four games and we all know Evans is a major factor in the red zone. One jump ball near the pylon could be all that separates Evans from a third straight double-digit fantasy day.
Expectation: Top-40 WR
Davante Adams, WR (GB) –The aforementioned Aaron Rodgers and this Green Bay offense are absolutely humming at this point and now they get the chance to carve up a laughable New Orleans secondary. You’re already starting both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as WR1s, but don’t forget about Adams either. He’s wrestled that third wide receiver spot away from Jarrett Boykin and, as we’ve seen in the past, the Packers are more than capable of sustaining three viable fantasy wideouts. Adams did get just one target last week, but I’ll forgive him for it since he turned it into a 21-yard touchdown. Expect more work for the Fresno State rookie this week as Green Bay should churn out another 30+ point performance.
Expectation: Top-45 WR
John Brown, WR (ARI) – If it’s a game with the Eagles, then you know I’m looking towards an opposing receiver for some fantasy glory. You’re already starting Michael Floyd and probably kicking the tires on Larry FItzgerald as well, but let’s not forget about John Brown. The diminutive rookie has gotten the exact same number of targets in each of the last three games as Fitzgerald and become an integral part of the Cardinals’ passing attack. Philadelphia was able to get tons of pressure on Eli and the Giants in their last game, so quick hitters to Brown could be the order of the day for Carson Palmer. He’ll be better in PPR leagues than in standard formats, so don’t be afraid to deploy him if you’re desperate for a WR in leagues that reward receptions.
Expectation: Top-45 PPR WR
Paul Richardson, WR (SEA) – When the Percy Harvin deal went down, I got a lot of questions over who would stand to benefit in Seattle. As we saw last week, Doug Baldwin took his first crack as the Seahawks #1 guy and ran with it. As good as he was though, I think the real winner in the Pacific Northwest will be Paul Richardson. Seattle really likes their second rounder from this past May’s draft and got him on the field to the tune of 43 snaps and five targets against St. Louis. Production from Seahawks’s receivers might be difficult to predict week-to-week, but a red-hot Russell Wilson and a matchup with Carolina’s fizzling secondary should provide Richardson with even more opportunities to shine. His stock will continue to rise after this one.
Expectation: Top-50 WR
Make sure to join me on the Fantasy Football section of Reddit again this Saturday morning as I’ll be answering all your lineup and trade questions. If you can’t wait that long to get a little advice, you can always find me on Twitter @sharpshot3ball. Good luck to everyone in Week 8!