When preparation meets opportunity.
I typically don’t take umbrage with how owners run their fantasy squads. After all, it’s your team and you can run it anyway you’d like. But if there is one qualm I have with how the majority of owners play things out, it takes place at this point in the season.
There is a shift that has to take place in your roster construction that I don’t think enough people take the time or effort to put in motion. For the better part of three months, we scour the waiver wire and mine different situations looking for the breakout player who can round out our teams. Now that we’re entering crunch time and on the doorstep of the playoffs, the time for fliers and stashes is pretty much over. Depth no longer matters and it’s all about insuring the value of the pieces we’ve chosen to ride with.
Doing so means it’s very important to secure the handcuffs to our studs. The likelihood that each of these players will make a difference in the playoffs is slim, but every year one or two star players go down and open up a role for a widely unowned backup. Already having these players rostered means being able to sleep that much easier knowing an injury won’t also cripple your team’s chances for championship glory. The following are the players who I think MUST be handcuffed heading down the stretch. Some are currently available on the wire and some might require a small deadline deal, but they should all be on your team if you own the corresponding starter as well:
|RB||DeMarco Murray||DAL||Joseph Randle|
|RB||LeSean McCoy||PHI||Chris Polk|
|RB||Alfred Morris||WAS||Roy Helu|
|RB||Matt Forte||CHI||Ka’Deem Carey|
|RB||Eddie Lacy||GB||James Starks|
|RB||Mark Ingram||NO||Khiry Robinson|
|RB||Frank Gore||SF||Carlos Hyde|
|RB||Arian Foster||HOU||Alfred Blue|
|RB||Jamaal Charles||KC||Knile Davis|
|RB||Ryan Mathews||SD||Branden Oliver|
|RB||Giovani Bernard||CIN||Jeremy Hill|
|RB||Le’Veon Bell||PIT||LeGarrette Blount|
|WR||T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne||IND||Donte Moncrief|
|WR||Julio Jones, Roddy White||ATL||Harry Douglas|
|WR||Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans||TB||Louis Murphy|
|WR||Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb||GB||Davante Adams|
|WR||DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon||WAS||Andre Roberts|
A couple noteworthy absences you might have noticed. I don’t have a handcuff listed for Marshawn Lynch because I really don’t see a clear successor should he be lost to injury. I think the Seahawks would end up in a RBBC situation with Robert Turbin and Christine Michael, and deciphering which of the two would have more value would probably be an exercise in futility considering you’ll probably have a better option on your bench already. Another glaring omission is the Giants RB situation. I don’t think Andre Williams is worth holding onto as a Rashad Jennings owner because we’ve seen what he can (and can’t) do with the opportunity and it’s just not very exciting. If Jennings is lost again, you can bank on 4-6 points from Williams, but I don’t see much more upside than that.
Don’t forget about handcuffs when it comes to wide receivers either. Teams that have two above-average wideouts often have a third waiting in the wings should either one of the starters succumb to injury. Of the five listed, there’s two that I see having major upside should they find themselves in a starting role and that’s Donte Moncrief and Davante Adams. No real shock given who their respective QBs are, but these two stand to make a huge leap should they get a bump up the depth chart, as we’ve seen with Moncrief when Reggie Wayne was out. Owners of Packers’ and Colts’ starting WRs need to do themselves a favor and get Moncrief and Adams rostered immediately.
Week 10 Hits:
Odell Beckham, Jr. – Standard scoring: 11.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 20.25 pts
Steven Jackson – Standard scoring: 15.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 17.5 pts
Martavis Bryant– Standard scoring: 20.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 30.9 pts
Jordan Matthews– Standard scoring: 25.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 38.65 pts
Week 10 Misses:
Jeremy Hill – Standard scoring: 4.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.1 pts
Charles Sims – Standard scoring: 2.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 1.0 pts
Lorenzo Taliaferro – Standard scoring: 1.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 2.0 pts
Chris Johnson – Standard scoring: 3.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.5 pts
Andre Holmes – Standard scoring: 0.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 1.0 pts
Jerricho Cotchery– Standard scoring: 1.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.5 pts
I’m buying 100% into both the Beckham and Matthews situations. OBJ made Richard Sherman look merely human on multiple occasions in this game and could easily be the most talented WR on the Giants roster, Victor Cruz included. As Reuben Randle has folded under the weight of this great opportunity, Beckham has come on strong and established himself as a strong WR2 play the rest of the season. Similarly, the move to Mark Sanchez stands to benefit Matthews as much as anyone on the Eagles. A second-quarter drive featured four Sanchez-to-Matthews connections including a 13-yard TD hookup. Philadelphia has lacked a definitive second pass catching option in fantasy, but it looks like Matthews has a good rapport with the new Eagles’ signal caller and should continue to thrive going forward, pushing him into the long list of WR3 candidates.
One guy I am hesitant on is Martavis Bryant. After waxing poetic about his height-weight-speed combination, he was on the verge of a major letdown before a late 80-yard TD strike not only salvaged his day, but made him one of the better WR plays in Week 10. While his snap count percentage continues to rise, he still played only 38 of 64 snaps in this one, the same number as fellow wideout Markus Wheaton. Eventually, the TDs will slow and remember, there’s still this Antonio Brown fella on the other side that’s going to get his regardless. If the end zone visits start slowing down (and at some point they have to, right?), I don’t see enough volume going Bryant’s way to keep him in the WR2 class he currently resides.
Thankfully, Week 11 brings an end to the six-team bye week parade. Relatively speaking, four teams getting the week off (Ravens, Cowboys, Jaguars, Jets) is a cakewalk, although a few sparkling RB options are off the board as a result. Fear not, because the Hot List has a wide range of Flex options for you to consider as you start making that final push for the playoffs:
Alshon Jeffery, WR (CHI) – To say the Bears are playing poorly is like saying the Democrats had an “off night” last week. Let’s be real. This team is a hot mess at the moment. But road dates with New England and Green Bay are a far cry from what Chicago is up against this week. With the Vikings on the horizon and a gimpy Brandon Marshall nursing a bum ankle, Alshon Jeffery owners should resist the temptation to leave him on their bench and again give him a spin against a familiar foe. The last time Jeffery saw Minnesota, he exploded for 12 catches and 249 yards along with a pair of touchdowns. I’ll certainly take the under on those numbers, but Jeffery is coming off a 12-target game and has seen at least seven passes come his way in every game but one. It might be a “sky is falling” moment for the Bears and their fans, but don’t let that sway you into sliding Alshon out of your lineup.
Expectation: Top-15 WR
Shane Vereen, RB (NE) – In a game featuring Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, I’m actually recommending not one, but two running backs (spoiler alert). Let’s face it though, Vereen is a running back in name only, having garnered less than ten carries per game since Stevan Ridley was lost for the year. The true value in Vereen’s game comes from what he does out of the backfield, and only one team allows more receiving yards to opposing running backs than the Indianapolis Colts (525 yards). In his last three games, Vereen has amassed 13 grabs for 132 yards and an all important three touchdowns. With a shootout looming in Lucas Oil Stadium, I expect more of the same from Vereen in a highly entertaining Sunday nighter. He remains RB1 worthy in PPR leagues and a strong RB2 play in regular formats.
Expectation: Top-15 RB
Ryan Mathews, RB (SD) – Funny how things work out. A month ago, many Mathews owners were on the verge of dropping the oft-injured runner after watching Branden Oliver explode on the scene. Since then, Oliver has done nothing but implode with the opportunity to distance himself from Mathews, seeing his yards and YPC drop in each of the last three games and leaving the door wide open for Mathews to re-assume his position atop the Chargers’ depth chart. The Raiders and their third-worst defense against opposing fantasy running backs make for a nice welcoming party. In his last meeting with Oakland, Mathews managed 119 total yards and a TD on 28 touches. While I’m not expecting that kind of volume, Mathews will be on the larger end of a 65/35 split and jumps back into the fold as a solid RB2 option.
Expectation: Top-18 RB
DeAndre Hopkins, WR – Compared to the wave of rookie receivers that have burst on the scene this year, Hopkins feels like he’s been around forever. Without much of the fanfare the first-year guys are getting, he’s quietly posted an impressive three-game stretch of 17 receptions and 318 yards and should have another juicy matchup against Cleveland. By all accounts, Joe Haden will spend most of the day shadowing the bigger Andre Johnson, leaving Nuk to feast on the scraps known as Buster Skrine. It takes a small leap of faith to jump into bed with a WR when his QB is a debuting Ryan Mallett, but I don’t see much drop-off, if any, in going from Fitzpatrick to Mallett. Personally, I can’t wait to see him unleash that big arm on a deep ball for Hopkins.
Expectation: Top-20 WR
Trent Richardson, RB (IND) – Am I really becoming a Trent Richardson backer? I’ve recommended him in the past with success and I’m all-in on the Bama back in one of the week’s premier games. Since losing Jerod Mayo for the season to a knee injury in Week 6, the Patriots have been a sieve up the middle, allowing the Jets and Bears to combine for over 320 yards on the ground. They were better last week against Denver, but a lot of that was thanks to the offense jumping out to a big lead and Peyton putting the game on his right arm. The Colts should have no trouble moving the ball on the ground early in this one and Richardson, fresh off a bye, is once again fully healthy and should see a lot of work in this one. Remember, T-Rich was top-10 in the NFL in carries before his injury, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to see him get 15-18 touches in this one. A short goal-line plunge is in store as well, making Richardson solid RB2 fodder for those losing Forsett or Robinson to a bye this week.
Expectation: Top-20 RB
Mohamed Sanu, WR (CIN) – Andy Dalton should be sending fruit baskets Jay Cutler’s way. After his ridiculously, anemically woeful performance (even that might be underselling it) against Cleveland last Thursday, the Bengals’ QB was an afterthought once Cutler and their Bears laid their egg on Sunday. Much like Alshon Jeffery, owners are now giving a sideways glance to Dalton’s pass catchers, wondering how his performance will affect the likes of A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. Obviously, you’re still starting Green no matter what at this point, and I would say that Sanu needs to be in your lineup as well, this coming from someone who was skeptical about Sanu every step of the way. The Saints are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs this year and given up at least 180 yards and one touchdown to four of the last five groups of wideouts they’ve faced. I’m also expecting a Dalton resurgence in this one. In the two previous games where he posted less than 12 fantasy points, he rebounded with at least 17 points the following game. Sanu returns to his spot as a high-upside WR3 on Sunday.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Brandin Cooks, WR (NO) – I took a look at the home/road splits of Cooks before last Sunday’s game and was very intrigued with the results, but there was still a tinge of lingering doubt. Cooks had performed admirably in his first three home games against MIN, TB and GB, but I wanted to see if he could do it against San Francisco, a defense returning to elite status. Five catches, 90 yards and one touchdown later, I’m convinced. This now brings Cooks’ per-game averages at the Superdome to seven catches and 79 yards. The Bengals are among the best in the league in shutting down opposing receivers, so something has to give. With how creative Sean Payton is at getting the ball in Cooks’ hands, including using him as a vertical threat, I side with the diminutive rookie having another productive afternoon in New Orleans.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Darren McFadden, RB (OAK) – So let me get this straight. Not only am I saying you can roll with Trent Richardson this week, I’m also confident in Darren McFadden as well? Either it’s 2010 all over again, or we’re all living in some running back twilight zone. Whichever it is, just accept that McFadden is a good play against the Chargers as he notched 80 yards on 14 carries against them in Week 6. If you need a little more of a boost to insert McFadden in your lineup, check out his receiving numbers the last month. While the yards have been hard to come by, I’ll take a RB getting four catches each week no questions asked. It remains to be seen how San Diego will rebound from the shellacking they were handed before their bye, but I still think there are holes to be exploited and Run-DMC will be the one doing the exploiting.
Expectation: Top-25 RB
Theo Riddick, RB (DET) – The long shot play of the week comes courtesy of one of my favorite units to talk about in 2014, the Lions’ backfield. However, it’s not my love of Joique Bell I’m rehashing, nor is it a favorable plug for Reggie Bush. In actuality, Bush has struggled mightily to stay on the field this year with an ankle injury that just won’t go away. In his stead, Detroit has turned over much of the passing down work to Notre Dame product Theo Riddick. If you got up early for the Lions/Falcons game in London a few weeks back, then you remember how productive Riddick can be in the passing game. Facing Arizona and their brick wall run defense, there won’t be any room up the middle for Bell to maneuver, forcing Stafford to air it out. Riddick should see his fair share of snaps regardless of Reggie’s status and be a boon to PPR owners in particular.
Expectation: Top-40 RB
Jarvis Landry, WR (MIA) – If you’re looking for a deep-league play at wide receiver this week, might I turn your attention to South Beach where we find, you guessed it, a rookie wideout making a splash. Ok, maybe it’s not a splash compared to other WRs in this class, but he’s definitely caused a few ripples in the pool. Landry is averaging five catches a game in his last five contests and has assumed control of the #2 wide receiver position in Miami ahead of Brian Hartline. In fact, Landry has more catches in that time frame (25) than does the team’s #1, Mike Wallace (20). The downside is that Landry is averaging just 9.6 yards per reception on the season, making him a stronger play in PPR formats. But as I’m sure you know by now, I’ll take the guy getting the volume nine times out of ten and, this far down the ranks, Landry makes for quite the speculative option.
Expectation: Top-40 WR
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Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts this Sunday November 16th from 11am-12pm EST for this week’s live episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in to ask questions live at 646.915.8596. This weeks guests are Bryan Robinson and Matt Barkman. Both Bryan and Matt write for MLFS. Bryan publishes a piece every Thursday called “FLEXual Tension” in which he focuses on the WR/RB position from week to week. Matt publishes a piece every Sunday morning at 9am EST called “Off the Matt” in which he focuses on key players either “out”, “questionable”, or “doubtful” to play Sunday or Monday. He then provides you with alternatives.
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