Fantasy Football: Buy or Sell, Blind Resumés, and Some Interesting Numbers

We’re in the heart of the fantasy season. For many, it’s make or break time, as teams are jockeying for playoff position. Between all of the injuries to studs last week and the fact that this is the heaviest bye week of the year, lots of owners will be forced to trot out less-than-optimal lineups this week. But let’s take a look ahead, now that we are officially halfway through the NFL season and try to forecast what will happen in the second half of the year, with a game of buy or sell.

Buy or Sell…

Russell Wilson finishes season as top-15 QB?  –  Sell.
At this point, there is very little to be excited about in Seattle’s offense. People understand that Seattle is staying above water because of its defense, but I don’t know that people realize just how porous the offense has been. To put things in perspective, only the 49ers are averaging fewer offensive TDs per game. Marshawn Lynch was missing for a few of those games, but as we saw last week against the Cowboys (when the Seahawks scored 13 points), the Seahawks have struggled to score the ball regardless of who has played.  Through the first half of the year, Wilson has thrown for over 250 yards only twice – one of those times was week 1, when he threw for 251 yards. He has had only one multi-TD game so far – in week 2, he threw for 2 TDs. Everyone knows it’s not Wilson’s arm that makes him a good fantasy QB though. It’s his rushing ability, of course. But his rushing totals have taken a hit as well. Last season, he rushed for 849 yards and 6 TDs. This year, he’s on pace to finish with just over 600 yards. And he has yet to rush for a TD yet. Lastly, Wilson is on pace to throw for the most interceptions in his career. He has 6 INTs through 8 games. Last year he finished with 7 INTs. QB is deep this year, and depending on how deep your league is, there may be better streaming options some weeks, rather than starting Wilson every week. Continue reading

Wizards Game 3: Carmelo and Knicks put away the Wiz in the 4th

For the third game in a row, the Wizards found themselves locked in a tight game late in the fourth quarter. But the Wizards were unable to edge out the rejuvenated Knicks, marking the first loss of the year. Though the game was close throughout, the Wizards did not play particularly well. John Wall and Bradley Beal continued to carry the load, and Drew Gooden gave productive minutes off the bench with three putback tip-ins.

For the most part, the rest of the team struggled. Otto Porter finished with what a stat line that, if you missed the game, would look respectable, but he has shot poorly now in three consecutive games. Much of the Wizards ability to space teams out and run depends on the team’s ability to knock down 3’s. And right now, the only shooter that really worries teams is Beal. Maybe Otto is not a 40% 3-point shooter, like many optimists envisioned. He needs to be able to shoot over 35% though and knock down open corner 3’s – he had a couple against the Knicks with no one around that he missed.

The other two starters, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, offered almost nothing. It’s inexplicable for someone Gortat’s size to only grab five rebounds. At least four or five times throughout the game, either Wall or Porter drove and dished to Gortat in the middle of the paint, only for Gortat to miss or get swatted by Robin Lopez. Meanwhile, it’s time to seriously consider whether Kris Humphries is destined to be a guy who beats up on backups. You know, someone whose energy is his best attribute, who grabs a bunch of rebounds and scraps around. It’s intriguing seeing him stretch his game out behind the arc, but it also just doesn’t seem right seeing him primarily line up 25 feet from the hoop on offense. He is most effective as a banger down low – a guy who makes a living on garbage points and tough rebounds.  Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 8 Recap

Here we are at the midpoint of the regular season, and what a brutal Sunday it was. We saw superstar Le’Veon Bell go down with a torn MCL that will cost him the rest of the year. We saw tough-as-nails ironman Steve Smith tear his achilles, ending his season, but hopefully not his career. We saw the ultimate model of consistency Matt Forte suffer a knee injury, though he was at least able to walk off the field on his own. We saw Reggie Bush, who was ready to play a bigger role for the 49ers with Carlos Hyde sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot, suffer a season-ending ACL tear. Underrated handcuff RB Khiry Robinson left Sunday’s game against the Giants with what looked like a serious leg injury. In that same game, TE Larry Donnell was carted off the field with a neck injury. Quietly having a very nice season, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a thumb injury on his non-throwing hand in the first quarter against the Raiders and missed the rest of the game, except for a few plays at the end of the game after replacement QB Geno Smith came out after a hard hit. And, the most violent, frightening injury came in the late afternoon game, when Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette sustained a concussion off a bone-crushing hit that left him on the ground motionless for several minutes. It initially appeared Lockette might have been paralyzed, but it was  *just* a concussion. Hope he recovers well.

There were other smaller injuries throughout the day. After scoring a TD, Keenan Allen left the game with back spasms. Teammate Ladarius Green left the game as well, with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Calvin Johnson also exited early with an ankle injury, though he may have returned if the game wasn’t a blowout. Kendall Wright suffered a knee injury, and rounding out the injuries, last week’s out-of-nowhere sensation RB Orleans Darkwa left today’s game early with a back injury.

Now that we covered today’s fantasy infirmary, let’s get into what happened today (and Thursday).

Patriots 37, Dolphins 7
This was a “Dion game”… and an Edelman game… and a Gronkowski game… and a Brady game. The Pats picked the Dolphins apart. Tom Brady is in a class by himself right now, and there is arguably no safer fantasy asset than Brady. He was flawless – over 350 yards, 4 TDs, and no turnovers. By extension, Brady’s favorite targets are some of the more reliable fantasy options. Rob Gronkowski surpassed 100 yards for the second straight game and fourth time this season. He scored a TD as well and is on pace to score 14 TDs this season. After a rare quiet game (stuck on Revis Island) last weekend, Julian Edelman scored a couple TDs to go with 81 yards. Almost all of that came in the 4th quarter, but it’s worth noting he had a TD taken away earlier in the game because of a penalty on a teammate. After missing last week with an abdomen injury, Dion Lewis put on a clinic out of the backfield, catching for almost 100 yards and a TD. Meanwhile RB counterpart LeGarrette Blount finished with 72 rushing yards, but no TD. It can still be difficult knowing when to start Blount, but for now, there seem to be two scenarios where he is a must-start: 1) When the opponent has an especially weak running defense, and 2) When there is serious blowout potential. The Pats blew out the Dolphins, so you would expect this to be type of game where Blount would be more productive. But he still ran fine. Danny Amendola faded out of relevance with Lewis and Lafell back and Edelman’s finger not out of whack. Fellow WR Brandon Lafell added a meager 47 yards, but he should only improve with more reps. Continue reading

Wizards Game 2: Barrage of 3’s in the fourth quarter propel Wiz past Buckss

For the second straight game, the Wizards played a subpar game and still managed to come away with the win. For most of the game, the Wizards looked lackluster on both ends of the court, but things started to click in the fourth quarter. Or shots just started dropping. Really, there is a difference between an offense firing on all cylinders and a team just getting ridiculously hot out of nowhere. It would be misleading to attribute to the fourth quarter offensive outburst to ‘pace and space.’ Some of the seven threes made by the team in the fourth definitely were a result of pushing the ball, but there were also several contested threes that you would never count on going in.

Regardless of the “how”, the Wizards are now 2-0 for the first time since 2005 – that seems like a long time even for the most cynical, jaded Wizards fans – and beat two underrated teams on the road. This was a gutsy win that, until the fourth quarter, seemed like a total no-show from the entire team. The Bucks got ahead to a 12 point lead midway through the first quarter and held a double digit lead for the remainder of the first. The first quarter was filled with much of the same sloppy play that plagued the Wizards in the season opener in Orlando. John Wall, despite the awesome numbers and clutch play, continues to jump the pass way too often. He did so six times in the first quarter, and those are the plays most frequently responsible for his turnovers.  Continue reading

Wizards Game 1: Wiz win season opener in dramatic final minute against Magic

For the first time in the Randy Wittman, there is intrigue and excitement over how the Wizards will play. All preseason long, the Wizards have promised a “Pace and Space” approach – something a little closer to what the Warriors dominated the NBA with last season. It is a shift towards small ball, surrounding arguably the fastest player in the NBA, John Wall, with three shooters and a big man. This, rather than the conventional lineup with two big men, Marcin Gortat and Nene last season, both of whom do not have range extending to the 3-point line. It’s a game plan that, ideally, utilize’s John Wall’s blazing speed better. When shots go up, the wings leak out and Wall races down court, putting constant pressure on defenses and opening up for 3-point barrages from Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and whoever else fills the wing.

For all of the excitement surrounding the Wizards’ new look in the preseason, the season opener in Orlando felt like a preseason game. Both teams were sloppy. Beal opened the game with back to back turnovers, and then Kris Humphries followed suit with a turnover of his own. Though sometimes out of control, Wall mostly steadied the team through the first quarter, responsible for 14 of the team’s first 16 points, with eight points and two assists. The Wizards sprinted ahead to an 18-9 lead in part to hot shooting from deep from Bradley Beal, who finished the first quarter with 13 points off of 5-9 shooting. But the quarter ended with the Wizards holding a single bucket advantage, as the Magic rallied behind their latest two lottery picks, Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja. The second quarter showcased a little bit of the good and bad of the “Pace and Space.” Kris Humphries, who for his career is 2-6 from behind the arc, hit a corner 3! That is a new dimension to his game, as he knocked down 10-28 3’s in the preseason. The other bright spot of the second quarter was newcomer Gary Neal’s productivity. The career journeyman has made a living in the NBA as a scorer, and he knocked in three baskets off the bench to keep the Wiz above water. It’s clear that it will take time for the team to figure out when to push the ball and when not to. The Wizards had seven turnovers in the half, and the increased pace coincided with recklessness. That is a symptom of playing fast, though John Wooden said: “play quick, but don’t hurry.” The Wizards look hurried getting the ball down floor, and it will take time before Wall and the rest of the team figure out when the break is not on. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Recapping Everything from Week 7

Week 7 is Monday night’s matchup away from being in the books, and that means we’re gearing up for the second half of the fantasy season. Though many matchups may still hinge on what happens tonight between the Cardinals and Ravens, in many leagues, some teams are starting to realize their season is a few weeks from ending, while others are starting to look ahead to the playoff stretch run.

Seahawks 20, 49ers 3
The window to buy low on Marshawn Lynch may be closed after his first great performance of the season, racking up 122 yards and a TD. Seattle’s offense still doesn’t look completely in sync, and Russell Wilson had a few uncharacteristic INTs, off of some poor decisions, but at least Lynch looks like a safe bet to return to RB1 form for the rest of the year. There are still more questions than answers when it comes to Jimmy Graham though, whose usage and involvement seems to fluctuate weekly. More often than not, it seems that Graham is not involved enough. Owning any Seattle pass-catcher is risky business.

Elsewhere, Carlos Hyde looks doomed being on a bad team that frequently has to abandon the running game. There’s not much blame to put on Hyde’s shoulders – he is in a barren offense, and Colin Kaepernick’s weaknesses look more glaring by the game. Anquan Boldin can be a nice flex start most weeks since he’s Kaepernick’s top target, but there is not a whole lot of upside tied to anyone on this offense.

Jaguars 34, Bills 31
Just when everyone was ready to jump aboard the Blake Bortles fantasy bandwagon, he turns in his first fantasy clunker since the season opener. Bortles had been terrific in fantasy for the past six weeks, but game flow really limited his opportunities this week. The Jags raced ahead to a 27-3 lead on the Bills, scoring two defensive TDs. For much of the second and third quarters, Bortles was mostly handing the ball off to T.J. Yeldon, who had his most productive day as a pro and his second career game eclipsing the century mark. Yeldon should have had an even more impressive day, if not for the coaching staff inexplicably giving Toby Gerhart four (unsuccessful) cracks from the one yard line. Despite the lead, which eventually evaporated partly because of ultra-conservative play-calling, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both had nice fantasy outings. Robinson is fully breaking out this season and looks locked in as a WR1 for the rest of the year. Something to the tune of 1500 yards and 10 TDs seems about right for Robinson. Hurns, on the other hand, was mostly absent, before corralling the game-winning TD with under a minute to play, salvaging what would have been an epic collapse by the Jaguars and a total dud of a fantasy performance by Hurns. Lastly, the most disappointing performance of any fantasy starter on either team came from Julius Thomas, who looked like an integral part of the Jaguars offense last week. Thomas had only one catch for four yards – good for a fantasy doughnut in standard leagues. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Digging Into the Numbers

Let’s take a look at some interesting fantasy numbers through the first six weeks of the year…

6.6
This is Amari Cooper’s average depth per target, which puts him ahead of only eight qualifying WRs in the league right now. The only legitimate WR below Cooper here is Jarvis Landry. Coming into the season, the knock on Landry was his lack of explosiveness – he was merely a possession WR who moved the chains, but did not break big plays. Much of that could be attributed to Miami’s ultra conservative offense. But it is a frustrating number for Cooper, who we know has deep play ability, as displayed in week 2 with his 68-yard deep bomb. Michael Crabtree has five more targets than Cooper this year and his average depth of target is almost double Cooper’s. In addition, Cooper has only one redzone target this year. All of this limits Cooper’s upside if the Raiders either won’t or can’t take deep shots to him. Coupled with that is the fact that Cooper will face a difficult slate the rest of the year with two matchups against the Chargers (3rd vs WRs) and games against: the Jets (9th vs WRs), Vikings (8th vs WRs), Packers (6th vs WRs), and Broncos (1st vs WRs). From here on out, Cooper only has a few plus-rated matchups.

2
That is how many RBs have more catches than Mark Ingram right now. For the record, those RBs are Theo Riddick and Devonta Freeman. Despite a paltry 3.5 YPC so far, Ingram is having a reliably productive fantasy season, especially in PPR leagues, being the goal line back and, for the first time in his career, the primary receiving RB on the Saints. Everyone expected C.J. Spiller to play the Darren Sproles role this season, but so far Mark Ingram is handling both roles: primary runner and catcher out of the backfield. Last season, Ingram had 29 receptions in 13 games. So far this season, he has 27 receptions.

48
Right now, Jordan Cameron’s reeling in 48% of his targets, which is better than only three TEs in the league. That is partially related to the fact that Cameron has the second highest average depth per target of any TE. Still, it’s not a good sign for Cameron owners when he’s not even catching half of his targets. This makes him more of a boom or bust TE most weeks with his value hinging on whether he snags a long catch or not. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 7 Primer

Let’s delve into the fantasy implications of each matchup in week 7, the midpoint of the fantasy season…

Seahawks-49ers
Though the Seahawks lost at home last week, fantasy owners invested in Seattle were happy with what they saw. For the first time all year, Jimmy Graham looked comfortable on the field and seemed to take a step forward in chemistry with Russell Wilson, knowing when to break his route and improvise when Wilson was out of the pocket. We have may have just seen Graham’s best game, or last week was just the beginning of the Jimmy Graham we expected. Marshawn Lynch also made an appearance, running for a score, though he struggled going against the Panthers defense that is one of the best in the league. This may be the last week to buy low on Lynch if you believe he’ll regain his form for the second half of the year.
For the Niners, Colin Kaepernick strung together his second straight strong performance, albeit against another weak defense in the Ravens. Kaepernick is not a bad second QB to have, whether in a two QB league, or just as insurance for bye week and injury. Likewise, Anquan Boldin put together his second straight game over 100 yards, as he continues to be a reliable WR3 that elicits little excitement out of fantasy owners. The rest of the Niners offense is hit or miss. Torrey Smith will always be a boom or bust option, whose value largely hinges on whether he reels in a deep ball or not, and Carlos Hyde’s stock has continued to drop since his monster week one performance.

Bills-Jaguars
With no Tyrod Taylor last weekend, the only relevant fantasy players on the Bills were LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, the former just returning from injury and the latter succumbing to injury once again. McCoy looked healthy for the first time all year and turned in a solid performance, scoring a TD to go along with 90 yards. Watkins, perennially snakebitten by injury, left the game with an ankle injury on the play where he scored a TD in what looked like a routine play.
The Jaguars, in a turn that almost no fantasy owner expected at the beginning of the season, are replete with important fantasy contributors. Blake Bortles is just an average QB in real life, but in fantasy, he’s one of the more reliable QBs, who will throw for plenty of yards, have a few nice runs that tally up, in addition to a couple TDs. He has thrown for the sixth most yards this year, he has tossed seven TDs in his last two games, and he always adds some yards on the ground as well. He will always add an INT (or two or three), but he makes for up it everywhere else. His two favorite targets Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are both having breakout seasons. Robinson, as long as he stays healthy, will be a top 12 WR and Hurns is a top 20 WR, having now scored a TD in four straight games. And in Julius Thomas’ second game back from the finger injury suffered in preseason, he reeled in a score to go with 73 yards. It is not particularly pretty, but through sheer volume, all Jacksonville pass-catchers have a place in starting lineups in fantasy. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Patience or Panic

We are at the point in the fantasy football season, where teams in every league are beginning to separate themselves, for better or worse. There are the undefeated teams that are just about guaranteed to reach the playoffs, and there are the teams who look to be a loss or two away from being out of the playoff race altogether. For the latter group, there is a desperation that is ripe for overreaction. There is blood in the water, and everyone knows it. Surely, if you’re 0-4 or even 1-3, you’re being bombarded with low-ball offers from owners looking to pounce on your precarious place in the standings. While it’s tempting to take some home run swings and shake up your roster, it’s always important not to make a trade, just for the sake of making a trade.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Patience
It’s crazy that Brown is even being included here, and if you have Brown on your roster, chances are your team is in good standing. But, if somehow, you have Brown and your team is struggling, don’t do anything rash. The Mike Vick effect will only last a few more weeks, and it’s hard to imagine it being any worse for Brown that it was last Thursday, when Brown just had a few catches for 42 yards. Brown is either the best WR in fantasy, or just a hair behind Julio Jones, and anyone who panics on Brown will be kicking themselves when Big Ben is back and Brown goes back to being a lock for 100 yards every week.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Patience
What a difference a few weeks make, huh? Not that Matthews ever really set the fantasy world on fire yet this year, but after week 2, Matthews looked like a safe bet to be a top 15 or even top 10 fantasy WR. The top aerial option in Chip Kelly’s offense should be a safe bet to receive a boatload of targets, and Matthews’ size should make him a red zone monster. But the Eagles have looked like a mediocre team, who maybe gave up the reins to Chip Kelly a little too much. The offense, for the most part, has struggled to put up points, and the rejuvenation of Sam Bradford hype was a little premature. Despite all of that though, Matthews’ owners should stay the course. He’s the unquestioned #1 wideout in Philly – neither Nelson Agholor, nor Riley Cooper is a real threat to steal too many targets from Matthews, and the offense can only get better. Matthews is a solid WR2 and a few so-so weeks shouldn’t cause panic out of his owners. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: MVP Race Through 2 Weeks

Two weeks into the season, there’s already plenty to overreact, panic, and second guess about. But it is not an overreaction to say a few guys stand far above the rest right now, just two weeks into the season. That does not mean they’ll continue to produce at such a ridiculous pace, as the season wears on, but for now, they are all ahead of the pack in the race for fantasy MVP.

1. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
He was the top WR off the board in drafts. PPR or not, he should have been a top 5 pick in all drafts. There may not be a safer player in fantasy football today. He has tallied over 320 yards in his first two games, with a TD coming in each game. The only reason to think his numbers might take the slightest dip is the return of Le’Veon Bell next week, but that should not change your opinion of Brown. He’s the most valuable fantasy commodity right now.

2. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Everyone knows how talented Julio Jones is. For him, the question was always a matter of health. So far, Julio has shined, posting back-t0-back over the century mark, with 2 TDs. Plus, he was tackled at the one yard line yesterday against the Giants. Roddy White’s time seems to have finally come, and while Leonard Hankerson has stepped up as a serviceable wideout, there is no doubt who Atlanta’s offense runs through. There is no reason to expect Jones’ numbers to decline. Only injury can stand in his way. Continue reading