“Round Robinson”: FLEXual Tension (The Jeopardy and Josh Gordon Edition)
If you’re a sports junkie like myself, especially one who loves random sports trivia, you probably miss shows like Stump the Schwab, 2 Minute Drill, or the often overlooked Ultimate Fan League. Seems crazy that Stump the Schwab has been off the air for eight years now, and I know many a sports fan who has been clamoring for a show to step up and take its place.
Good news is it’s already happened, and it’s one of the best mash-ups of sports and trivia you could ask for. This past September, Sports Jeopardy made its debut, hosted by one of the biggest sporting personalities of this generation, Dan Patrick. Every week on Crackle.com or the Crackle app for mobile devices and smart TVs, you get to test yourself against three sports fanatics and yell at them as they whiff on questions you could answer in your sleep. But why am I plugging a seemingly unrelated game show in a fantasy football article?
Because this week, I am one of those three fanatics.
Yes, yours truly gets his shot at sports immortality, or at least as close as any fan could get to such a title. All those years of watching mid-major college basketball tournaments and geeking out over the 5th round of the NFL Draft have paid off. Over 30,000 people applied to get on the first season of Sports Jeopardy, and I was one of the lucky 150 who made it through the testing process and onto the show. So what better way to tie it altogether than by bringing you this week’s edition of the Hot List in Jeopardy form. Test yourself with a few brain teasers below, then make sure to watch my episode of Sports Jeopardy simply by following the link. Just remember the golden rule: all answers must be in the form of a question.
League Leaders for 250 points:
There’s nothing corny about it. He currently leads all NFL wide receivers with 10 TD receptions in 2014.
Who is Randall Cobb?
Is there a better #2 receiver in the game today? There aren’t too many number ones who would turn down the stats Cobb has posted so far this year. Sunday was only the second time Cobb was shut out from the end zone, but he still managed a healthy 10 grabs for 129 yards, putting to rest any idea that his value is somehow touchdown-dependent. What receivers like Cobb, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have also done is dispel the notion that smaller wideouts can’t be relied upon to produce touchdowns at the same clip as bigger receivers. In a new era of football where DBs are no longer permitted to be physical with WRs, quickness and speed on the outside are just as important, if not more so, than size and stature.
Disgruntled Employees for 500 points:
After posting 124 yards in Week 4, this RB was summarily cut earlier this week after he voiced displeasure in being a part of a three-way split in the backfield.
Who is Ben Tate?
Whining about your role in the offense when you’re one of three capable backs is a quick way to find yourself being handed a pink slip. The Browns are fully invested in Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West moving forward, but I would give the slight edge to Crowell simply because he is the preferred option of the two in the red zone. Deep leaguers should also keep an eye on another rookie, Glenn Winston, as he could inherit the handful of touches voided by Tate’s release. If you still have Tate on your roster at this point, don’t drop him, at least not yet. He was just picked up off waivers by the Vikings and has an opportunity to be more useful there than he was in Cleveland. With both McKinnon and Asiata banged up and missing practice early in the week, Tate could find himself quite busy for his new team against Green Bay on Sunday.
Aggie Accomplishments for 1000 points:
Johnny who? This A&M standout became the first rookie with 100 receiving yards and a TD in three straight games since Randy Moss in 1998.
Who is Mike Evans?
In addition to that impressive feat, realize that Evans is ninth in fantasy points among wide receivers. Repeat, ninth. For the season. He’s ahead of such guys as Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall and T.Y. Hilton. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But that’s what 458 yards and five touchdowns in a three-game stretch will do to your value. He’s an every week, no-brainer WR2 going forward despite tough matchups with Cincinnati and Detroit looming. I’ll even go so far as to say this late charge has pushed Evans to the top of my ballot for Offensive Rookie of the Year, a monumental accomplishment considering the depth and talent of this year’s crop of receivers. Speaking of rookie wideouts, let’s take a quick glance at last week’s results from the Hot List.
Week 11 Hits:
Alshon Jeffery – Standard scoring: 19.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 36.9 pts
Ryan Matthews – Standard scoring: 7.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.5 pts
Jarvis Landry – Standard scoring: 8.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 7.95 pts
Week 11 Misses:
Shane Vereen – Standard scoring: 7.7 pts; MLFS scoring: 11.7 pts
DeAndre Hopkins – Standard scoring: 8.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 12.0 pts
Trent Richardson – Standard scoring: 2.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 3.1 pts
Mohamed Sanu – Standard scoring: 2.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 5.3 pts
Brandin Cooks – Standard scoring: 5.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 6.9 pts
Darren McFadden – Standard scoring: 1.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.5 pts
Theo Riddick– Standard scoring: 2.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 2.1 pts
Week 11 looks a lot worse than it should thanks to near misses from Vereen, Hopkins and even Theo Riddick (running back was absolutely brutal last week). One guy who did come through was my Thursday night spotlight play, Jarvis Landry. Landry will continue to be a sneaky play down the stretch, especially for those in PPR leagues and leagues where return yardage is also valued. As predicted, Mike Wallace has come crashing back down to Earth after a hot start, only scoring twice in the last five weeks while failing to even reach 60 yards once in that time frame. Those losing Brandin Cooks or (potentially) Emmanuel Sanders should look Landry’s way for a fill-in with Denver on the horizon.
Trent, oh you no-good, terrible Trent. I pump you up against a vulnerable New England run defense and you proceed to remind us all of that whole lack-of-talent problem you suffer from. But in true T-Ditch fashion, you’re out to tease me again. Not only do you get to face the Jags again, a team you went for 80 yards on 17 touches against in Week 3, but presumably, you get the bulk of the workload with Ahmad Bradshaw lost to a broken leg. Fine, I’ll give you one more chance, but this is the last time. If you can’t be at least RB2 worthy with all of these factors working in your favor, I’m done. In fact, just to show you how serious I am, I’m making you the first member of the Week 12 Hot List. And if you let me down in this one, be prepared to have me throw you under the bus and back up repeatedly next week.
Expectation: Top-20 RB (God help me)
With that, the Hot List is off and running. The final two teams have their bye this week (Carolina, Pittsburgh), so make sure to pull Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Kelvin Benjamin and others from your lineup. Injuries to solid contributors have made filling out a lineup another tough chore, but I’ve got nine more names for you to consider at the RB and WR positions, starting with the return we’ve all been waiting for:
Josh Gordon, WR (CLE) – It goes against everything I believe in to have Josh Gordon in this space. I would (almost) never recommend a player getting his first game action in 11 months, especially when activities during that layoff include leasing a car to Cavs swingman Mike Miller. It’s hard to have faith in Browns’ receiving options considering this team has been so run heavy as of late. And there’s a very good chance that Desmond Trufant, the NFL’s fourth highest-rated cornerback according to Pro Football Focus, will be following Gordon everywhere he goes. But I can’t help myself. Gordon has reportedly come back in phenomenal shape and is planning, in his words, to “tear this league up”. After what he did last year in 14 games (87 Rec, 1646 Yds, 9 TD in case you forgot), I won’t be the one betting against him. Shanahan family offenses, while being run-first, have typically always allowed for one featured receiver to put up substantial numbers. If you’ve waited all year for Gordon’s return, you’re not waiting one more week to get him in your lineup.
Expectation: Top-15 WR
Tre Mason, RB (STL) – Thank you, Jeff Fisher. Thank you for finally being fantasy friendly and giving us all a much needed running back option we can depend on. All it took was you committing to one player, the unquestioned best back you have, and feeding him the rock. I won’t bank on anywhere near 29 carries for Mason like we saw last week, but if he gets into the high teens or low-20s, you won’t hear any complaints from me. Right now, the Rams are on the upswing and the Chargers just have the look of a team that’s about to crumble under the weight of an imposing schedule to close. It’s a shame it took this long for St. Louis to get it together because this is a quality roster. Expect defense to carry the day and a whole lot of ball control as the Chargers are giving up an average of 105 yards to opposing RBs in their last five games (as compared with just 64 yards per game the previous five).
Expectation: Top-16 RB
Giovani Bernard, RB (CIN) – I honestly never thought I would have the opportunity to make Bernard a part of the Hot List. I do my best to avoid the obvious names, but with his injury and the subsequent strong play of Jeremy Hill in his absence, plugging in Gio has become anything but obvious. He returned to practice earlier this week, a good sign that Sunday’s date with Houston will mark his return to the field. The Texans have allowed 16 points or more (in standard leagues) to opposing backfields in seven of their 10 games so far in 2014, and I expect the Bengals to make it eight. Although Bernard’s touches should be limited, I still see him getting somewhere between 12-15, enough to make him a viable RB2 this week.
Expectation: Top-24 RB
Torrey Smith, WR (BAL) – Remember the first five weeks of the season? Remember when it seemed like he was only running one type of route? Remember the disdain you had for him while Steve Smith was racking up the fantasy points in September? Now go check out his numbers the last five weeks. Surprise surprise. If you dropped Torrey Smith off your radar, you’ve missed out on plenty of fantasy goodness including five touchdowns and four games of 12+ standard league points. That type of production plays. Now he gets to face a Saints defense that is 26th in fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and has allowed over 100 yards per game to opposing #1 wideouts the past six weeks. Make no mistake either, it’s Torrey and not Steve who has taken over as the #1 option for Joe Flacco. Don’t be surprised to see another long connection to the streaking speedster on the fast track in New Orleans.
Expectation: Top-24 WR
Anquan Boldin, WR (SF) – Quietly, Anquan Boldin has been one of the best receivers in fantasy over the last month and a half. He’s recorded at least five catches and 50 yards in each of his last five games, including three games with 93+ yards. Boldin’s also scored each of his three touchdowns over that same time span, becoming Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target as both Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis have disappointed. Against the youthful secondary of Washington, I see the wily veteran having another productive day as the 49ers lean on the passing attack to move the ball. Washington has bottled up opposing ground games as of late, so look for more of the same from Boldin here.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Charles Sims, RB (TB) – This is purely a gut play on my part. The Bears have been fairly decent in holding opposing running backs down (13th in points allowed to opposing RBs), and Tampa hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire on the ground (28th in total rushing). But this is Lovie Smith’s first venture back to Chicago since he was fired in 2012 and, whether he wants to admit it or not, this game is more than just another regular season matchup. Smith is a players’ coach and I fully expect to see an inspired effort from the Bucs in support of their leader. Sims was compared early on to Smith’s former running back Matt Forte and there will be plenty of incentive for him to prove those comparisons accurate in this one. He’s been given command of the Tampa Bay backfield situation and will reward his coach and his owners with a strong game against Chicago.
Expectation: Top-25 RB
Marques Colston, WR (NO) – While many see the loss of Brandin Cooks opening up a few more opportunities for Kenny Stills, I’m just not buying it. Stills is primarily a deep option where as most of Cooks production came on shorter routes. The true beneficiary should be Colston as he is the prototypical possession receiver. He did see eight targets last week after only getting 11 the previous three weeks combined. An increased workload goes well with a floundering Baltimore secondary. Even with a strong performance against Tennessee, the Ravens are still 28th in points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Dealing with Drew Brees in the Superdome won’t do anything to help those numbers out and Colston could go back to the future with a promising stat line in Week 12.
Expectation: Top-30 WR
Cecil Shorts III, WR (JAC) – Every year, fantasy football owners, especially those who are in charge of more than one team, find themselves latching onto a few players across multiple teams, affectionately making them “their guys”. One of my guys this year was definitely Allen Robinson, so seeing him lost for the rest of the season to a foot injury was a crushing blow. Robinson’s 81 targets was 26th in the league after Week 11, so someone stands to benefit from an increase in looks for the Jaguars and that’s going to be Cecil Shorts. He’ll be a volume play rather than someone who gets loose for big plays, making him even better for PPR owners. Bortles will wind up throwing it another 35+ times against the Colts and Shorts could be a junk time hero.
Expectation: Top-32 WR
Latavius Murray, RB (OAK) – Maybe, just maybe, someone in Oakland is starting to catch on. See, there’s this idea floating around, a pretty popular one actually, that says your best chance of winning comes from putting your best players on the field. Someone got the memo last week because we finally saw an extended glimpse at Latavius Murray and all his potential against the Chargers. Now don’t go crazy, he only got seven touches total, but that’s still an improvement over the five he had received all year up to this point. With the Raiders now sitting an 0-10, I think it’s about time they figured out what they’ve got in some of these younger pieces, meaning an even longer look at Murray should be in store. That could only result in 10 touches, but that’s enough to make him my deep league play of the week against a Kansas City team that is 24th in yards allowed on the ground. Don’t expect to see a TD out of Murray (the Chiefs have yet to allow a rushing TD all season), but the yardage total could very well net you a handful of points.
Expectation: Top-40 RB
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on November 23rd, 2014 at 11am-12pm EST for this weeks episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596
This week’s guests include Bryan Robinson and Jeff Nelson. Bryan is a writer for MLFS and his articles publish every Thursday. Bryan discusses the WR/RB position and advises you on your Flex position plays.