What To Do With All Those Packers, Eifert Time, Injured WRs to Scoop Up
Plus all kinds of waiver wire advice, buy-low and sell-high candidates heading into Week 8
The MMQB's Gary Gramling names Spencer Ware, Alshon Jeffery and Jack Doyle as fantasy football players to watch this week.
You might have already heard about NFL.com’s newest fantasy football innovation.
Better look. Seriously, the NFL will monetize anything including cheating at fantasy football. pic.twitter.com/sIyV1DSukN— Jeremy White (@JeremyWGR) October 21, 2016
That’s right, retroactive lineup decisions. It has sparked a debate: On one hand, some people are calling this exceptionally dumb. But on the other side of it, many argue that this is overwhelmingly greedy. Whichever side you fall on, I’m here to offer you a solution. An improvement. There’s got to be a better way!
Mail me a dollar, and I will give you points. How many points? Lots. More than NFL.com will give you. Fifty points. No, a thousand points. No, no, that’s too much. I will give you 90 points. So send me a dollar and get 90 points for your fantasy team. Send me another dollar, and I’ll contact your opponent that week and explain to him or her why your points are valid. However, I’ll also be offering my services to your opponent in case they also want to buy points. So you might want to play it safe and send quite a few dollars to me in order to rack up more points than your opponent would be willing to buy. It’s the new fantasy football!
But wait, it gets better. Why settle for simply not setting your lineup. How about bypassing the whole hassle of drafting a team? Just send me $40 and I will declare you a champion. For another $30, I’ll email you a printable PDF that officially certifies you as a champion! Champion of what? Whatever you want. t doesn’t matter what you’re playing. The game is now just send money and get points. Send more money and be a champion. And above all, grow the business.
But hey, old man, if you want to play fantasy football the old-fashioned way, y’know, like your grandma and grandpa used to do by hurling rocks against their Commodore 64s, here’s some advice that might help you…
Knile Davis and James Starks: Davis is going to have about a month-long audition as the only true running back in Green Bay. And make no mistake, the Packers want to establish the ground game. It’s all Mike McCarthy talked about this summer. That and how much he loves Arcade Fire. (Yes, I get it, they’re a very good band, everyone already likes them.) Davis, a straight-ahead, no-nonsense runner, can have success behind this offensive line, especially with fresh legs. But in an perfect situation, he’s looking at the lead role in a committee. If he doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity (and remember, there’s a reason he had fallen to fourth on K.C.’s depth chart), Starks will get a chance to claim the lead role when he returns (best guess: after Thanksgiving). Starks might not be 100% healthy at any point this season, but what running back is come December? Just keep in mind that, no matter who emerges as the leader, their role will be relatively limited. That’s because…
Ty Montgomery: The Packers will keep finding backfield snaps for Montgomery (or “Monty,” as I call him in an attempt to save key strokes, I also sometimes call him “MT-Goms” or “Yremogtnom,” which is just “Montgomery” spelled backwards, try to keep up). He’s been too effective in an underneath catch-and-run capacity, something the Packers desperately need with their receivers unable to get open downfield. However, unlike the Cowboys two weeks ago and the Bears on a short week, opponents going forward will be fully prepared for Montgomery’s new backfield role. I’m afraid the party might be over.
Jay Ajayi: Well... there’s a chance I may have miscalculated here. The Dolphins went exceedingly run-heavy in the win over the Bills, despite the fact that they were trailing until the fourth quarter. If it were socially acceptable, Adam Gase would throw it on literally every play. That includes while his team is in victory formation. Clearly though, his id has lost this battle. Let me just say this though: Miami’s ultra run-heavy ways have likely taken their last two opponents by surprise. We’ll see what happens now that everyone knows Ajayi is coming at them two out of every three plays.
Davante Adams: Adams has struggled mightily to separate from man coverage over the past two seasons. So a Thursday evening with undrafted rookie De’Vante Bausby was good for what ails him. The thing is, we don’t live in a world of De’Vante Bausby’s (if we did it would be horribly confusing at the DMV), and Adams will likely disappear often going forward. The one plus is that the Packers’ running back void will force them to throw a ton, so the presumptive targets keep Adams’ floor high. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking his ceiling is what he did last Thursday against Chicago. You’re probably looking at more like four or five catches per week and yardage around 50, along with the chance for a touchdown every other week.
Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley: Owning Matt Jones is an emotional roller coaster. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve contemplated. I’ve ate. I’ve napped. I’ve cried again. I’ve cursed God after Jones has fallen or fumbled short of the goal line. The fumbles are the problem right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this backfield (which Jones had a chance to own) devolved into a committee. Thompson will keep the passing-down role, though I think his increased workload in the Detroit loss was due to the fact that Washington was trailing as much as it was a result of Jones’s fumblitis. Kelley is the bigger beneficiary as far as Jones’s early-down and goal-line work goes.
Zach Ertz: I’m still holding out hope. Not much hope, but some. Right now the Eagles are all hands on deck on the right side, with Lane Johnson out and fill-in rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai pass-protecting about as effectively as Ghost Dad would. (For you see, because he was a ghost, things like cars or even people could move right through Ghost Dad while encountering no resistance. He would not have made a good blocker at all. And this joke would have landed better if I didn’t pick a Bill Cosby movie.) Ertz has been stuck staying in or chipping on the way out. Though on Sunday, Ertz’s second game back, the Eagles were facing an overwhelming Vikings defense. In my Sunday column, I made the friendly suggestion that the Eagles start using their crappy wide receivers to chip instead. We’ll see if Doug Pederson gets around to reading that column (he probably won’t, just like he never came to my Little League games). But surely, Philly knows that at some point they must get their best weapon involved, and their best weapon is Ertz.
Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber: The Bucs’ upcoming schedule: Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, all at home. They still have two games against the Saints later this year. As long as Doug Martin is out, Rodgers is a must-play. Barber should be picked up in case Rodgers wears down or gets hurt. Barber is even a desperation FLEX play considering how utterly feeble the schedule is.
Aaron Rodgers: According to infinite monkey theorem, it would take a thousands of monkeys at typewriters thousands of years to produce a work that catalogs all the problems with the 2016 Packers’ offense. I don’t think any of the problems in that catalog got solved on Thursday night against Chicago (unless the solution was “play the Bears,” which isn’t a very good one considering NFL scheduling guidelines). So I think Rodgers will be rocky going forward. Even more worrisome: The Packers have only been on the road twice this year (for organized games, that doesn’t include leisure travel by individual players); since the start of the 2014 season, Rodgers has a 52-to-7 TD/INT ratio at home, and 30-to-10 on the road. Also, the Packers have a Week 16 (for many, fantasy championship) matchup with the Vikings. I’ll stop there before you frantically offer him for Brock Osweiler straight-up.
Justin Hunter: He gets to put “No. 1 Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills, October 2016” on his LinkedIn profile, but he’s not playable.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall: Not quite sure what to make of this. It’s a mopey Fitzpatrick throwing to Marshall, who is figuring out new and exciting ways to drop passes (30 receptions on 68 targets this year!). The good news is that Marshall figures to see 10-plus targets weekly going forward, keeping his floor high. And as for the efficiency problems, the Jets have already moved through the toughest part of the schedule.
Jay Cutler: Yes, yes, yes, Jay Cutler is coming back, probably Monday night against the Vikings. In my Sunday column two weeks ago, I wrote about the QB “controversy” in Chicago, and how the Bears’ potential decision to go with Brian Hoyer was a bad idea at best and high treason at worst (though much closer to the former). I’m not a Cutler believer, but he’s at least willing to test defenses. I’m not particularly optimistic, especially since Hoyer got to feast on such an easy chunk of the schedule, but I do think Cutler is an intriguing risk/reward QB2 considering the Bears will be playing catch-up most weeks. (Though, obviously, don’t play him against the Vikings.)
Alshon Jeffery and Cameron Meredith: One day you’ll tell your grandchildren about the time Cameron Meredith caught 20 passes for 243 yards in a two-week span. They’ll respond by calling you a senile liar. And they’ll be right, you will be a liar when you’re old in a desperate attempt to embellish your otherwise pedestrian life. But not this time. Meredith did go off during the Hoyer-led “Seventeen Points and Only Seventeen Points” tour. The second-year receiver will retain his starting spot with Kevin White out, but considering the alternatives to Hoyer (the under-armed Matt Barkley, or Jay Cutler, who usually makes a habit of involving Jeffery, the best player on the field and the Bears’ only big-play weapon), Meredith’s stock is crashing. He’s a shaky hold, but still a hold for now. Jeffery owners, on the other hand, can’t wait for the return of Cutler. Jeffery isn’t a guy who creates a ton of separation, he’s simply unstoppable in contested-ball situations. Those are throws Cutler makes (too often, if anything). Those are throws Hoyer rarely tried.
Tyler Eifert: Go ahead and activate Eifert this week as the Bengals travel to London (even in light of the NFL mandate prohibiting competent football in the U.K.). He played 15 snaps on Sunday and might have played more in a competitive game. I would project he’s on pace to play two-thirds of the snaps between the 20s, and take on a full workload in the red zone.
Jamison Crowder: A nice little run for Crowder, but the party is over if Jordan Reed indeed returns for the London game. Crowder becomes a low-end WR4.
Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood: Doug Pederson says he’s not down on Mathews despite the back losing a late fumble while protecting a lead against the Vikings, just two games after a crippling late-game fumble in Detroit.
These are the facts: Mathews is the best pure runner among Philly’s backs. Mathews has the worst passing-game skills among Philly’s backs. And the saluki can cover a three-mile distance faster than any animal in the world. This is going to be a committee approach regardless of who the lead back is (and a lot of weeks Darren Sproles will lead the backfield in snaps). But I still think Smallwood will overtake Mathews in the second half of the season. Pederson’s offense requires backs who can catch and block. Mathews does neither, and he can’t hold onto the ball either. He’s a guy to trade if you can bring back anything of value. And Smallwood is a stash in deeper leagues.
Matt Asiata: If Jerrick McKinnon indeed misses the Monday night game (knowing your luck he’ll be a game-time decision), you can go ahead and start Asiata and only feel a little bit of shame. He’ll be a No. 1 back with a goal line role in a game against the Bears. The math adds up.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: I haven’t been drinking while writing this. At least not heavily. But if this Sammie Coates injury is going to linger until Ben Roethlisberger is back in the lineup, I could see rolling the dice on Heyward-Bey. He was targeted seven times and had a TD on Sunday, he had another TD taken back by a penalty, and was targeted in the end zone one other time as the Patriots surrounded Antonio Brown with a thousand defenders.
Melvin Gordon and Dexter McCluster: There’s some talk of lightening Gordon’s workload, but for all the mistakes Gordon has made (fumbles, so many fumbles), McCluster has done little to show he belongs on the field (and the Chargers really don’t have another playable running back on the roster). Plus, that win over Atlanta last week was the first time in two seasons that Gordon played anywhere near his billing. I would suspect he’ll wear down as the year goes on, but considering Philip Rivers will not be stopped Gordon’s TD potential makes him a lock for fantasy lineups.
Donte Moncrief: I loved him preseason (more plutanic than romantic), and now he’s nearing a return to the field. Don’t be misled by the disappointing early-season stat line; Moncrief went 6-64-1 in the opener, then did nothing in his second game at Denver when he got injured. With the Colts’ O-line getting better and the schedule a soft one, I think Moncrief has top-25 wideout upside once he’s 100% healthy.
Matt Forte: I’ll go out on a limb and say his workload will fall between the 10 touches he had in Week 6 and the 34 touches he had in Week 7. But the good news for Forte owners is that the Jets were force-feeding him on the goal line, despite his past (and present, and future) of being a terrible goal-line back. He even lost a fumble while carrying the ball with one hand through goal-line traffic! If you’re going to get seven touches inside the opponent’s 5 every week, you can’t help but get a touchdown or two.
Russell Shepard and Adam Humphries: If the Bucs are looking for a replacement for Vincent Jackson from a stylistic standpoint, Shepard might get an increased workload. His 5-77-1 line on Sunday is his ceiling. But the bigger story was Humphries’ 2-17-0 line (I’m surprised the networks didn’t interrupt with a special bulletin). As far as Tampa’s non-Mike Evans targets though, tight end Cameron Brate is the only one worth starting consideration.
Tavon Austin: With the limitations of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick (run a go route or… a go route?) the Rams will continue to feature Austin on screens and gadget-type stuff. He’s a nice bench option as a high-floor guy due to all the designed plays they use him on.
Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles: My assessment of Jamaal Charles’ knee injury will likely cost me my medical license. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charles was limited to a bit role from here on in. If you held onto Ware, pat yourself on the back.
DeAngelo Williams: Just a reminder to hang onto him—or pick him up—just in case there’s a Le’Veon Bell injury. If Bell suffers an injury while taking on an enormous workload while Ben Roethlisberger is out, Williams could be a fantasy postseason difference maker.
Ka’Deem Carey and Jordan Howard: I don’t make a habit of questioning the player assessments made by coaching staffs. The average NFL coach will forget more about football than I will ever know. But I wonder about the Chicago Bears. First the Hoyer/Cutler thing. Now we have Carey working his way into a time share with Howard. A week ago I thought it was a one-off week because of a fluke game in which Howard happened to struggle, and that in the end Howard’s superior talent would win out. But no, make no mistake, this is a committee backfield, even with Jeremy Langford out. And I know it’s a heavy bye-week, uh, week, but neither of these guys are playable against the Vikings.
Corey Coleman: Time to grab and stash if he’s sitting on your waiver wire. Coleman is a risk as a rookie on a team that is an injury away from bringing back Kelly Holcomb, but his upside is higher than Terrelle Pryor’s. And you saw what Terrelle Pryor was doing.
Marqise Lee: Sure, you can roll the dice and pick up Lee. He had eight targets and caught seven of them for 107 on Sunday. He played 47 or 67 snaps. You’ll have an excuse to cite one of Tenacious D’s better sketches (hyperlink warning: they say the F-word, and I think I might have heard the A-word too). But the Jaguars are a mess offensively. Blake Bortles has regressed. You can’t count on anyone in this offense right now, let alone the No. 3 receiver.
Quincy Enunwa: Sunday was a mess for the Jets offense, as they just ran the ball, punted and waited for the next Ravens turnover. Enunwa turned a short throw into a long touchdown to save his stat line, but that was it. I’d hang onto him just in case considering the schedule is softening up. But the worrisome part is how often Enunwa came off the field in two-receiver sets on Sunday, especially considering he’s a plus-blocker.
Jared Goff: Nah. I honestly don’t think he’s getting on the field, and I’m not surprised considering that Mickey Mouse offense he ran in college. And even if he does end up starting a couple late-season games, have you seen the Rams’ receiving corps?
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