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The Best of Week 8

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles. 

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week. 

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.  

This week we examine the immediate opportunities for Marlon Mack and Aaron Jones, check out some promising college quarterbacks, profile three defensive linemen with strong IDP value, examine notable changes in dynasty values, and reveal seven sleepers for Week 8.   

1. Marlon Mack and Aaron Jones

The two mid-round rookie runners are making fantasy noise and they have the fantasy community wondering if they will become valuable starters during the second half of the season. Mack has seen more touches in recent weeks, and the Colts staff has expressed the desire to get him the ball more often.  Even so, Frank Gore has done little to lose the confidence of his team.

The Footballguys Roundtable Staff discussed Mack and Jones this week. We'll begin with Mack: 

Maurile Tremblay: In Indianapolis, will Marlon Mack supplant Frank Gore as the featured back?

Chad Parsons: The Colts have little reason not to ramp up Marlon Mack’s usage down the stretch. While inconsistent, Mack’s athleticism is overt compared to Frank Gore’s grinder profile. Also, the team is going nowhere with Andrew Luck’s return lacking a projected date and their defense is one of the worst in the NFL.

Justin Howe: Many of these dilemmas can be addressed by looking at expected game scripts. We can safely project quite a few losing weeks for the Colts down the stretch, so it’s fair to expect some uptick in usage for Marlon Mack as the primary receiving back. Mack has established himself as a dynamic receiver—far more so than Frank Gore, who’s drawn two or fewer targets in four of seven games thus far. As Chad pointed out, there’s simply no reason for the Colts to not work in Mack more and more during this lost year.

Jeff Haseley: I would be surprised if Marlon Mack doesn’t continue to see more touches at Frank Gore’s expense. Mack’s snap totals should continue to increase and he’s becoming the sole option as a pass-catching back on the team. If the Colts continue to drop down the rankings of the AFC South, we may see even more Mack, as the team will look to see what they have in their budding young back.

Adam Harstad: We’re already seeing less Frank Gore, and that trend seems unlikely to reverse itself given his age.

My Take: I'll disagree with Howe's statement that "there's simply no reason for the Colts to not work Mack more..." I have one excellent reason based on his college tape at USF: Frank Gore is a far savvier runner between the tackles than Mack.

While possible that the Colts shut Gore down with the desire to give Mack more developmental opportunities, I doubt it happens. As a rookie with a moribund San Francisco team, he once yelled at his team in the locker room while in tears over the fact that he saw his veteran teammates laughing, fooling around, and more excited about post-game activities after a loss. Gore is not a player a team takes off the field without a compelling reason and without a fight.

The veteran will see some decrease in touches to integrate Mack into the gameplan, but don't count on a significant phasing out. In this week's Top 10, I examine Mack's usage in the Colts offense, illustrate some of his strengths and weaknesses, and compare Mack's usage to what we've seen with Tevin Coleman in Atlanta's scheme.

breaking down Marlon mack's usage  

The calls for Mack to take over for Frank Gore are ill-advised, but I understand the love for Mack's open-field ability and athletic prowess. Mack's footwork, stride type, and pad level actually give him the potential to develop into the player that Tevin Coleman's greatest proponents think Coleman was supposed to become.  

Keep that in mind when I say that Mack is used a lot like the Falcons used Coleman during his two seasons with Kyle Shanahan: a runner in passing sets and a receiver in run looks.

 

M Mack I

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 22, 2017 at 10:39am PDT

 

 

M Mack II

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 22, 2017 at 10:39am PDT

The Colts are doing this because they want Mack in space where he excels. 

 

Mack for 34 yds

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 22, 2017 at 12:13pm PDT

However, Mack still has work to do between the tackles. He's actually better than Coleman when comparing their rookie years. However, he must show more patience and stick with the intent of the scheme to maximize his gains.

This play below has a double-team of a lineman to the linebacker Myles Jack. Mack had a perfect opportunity to press this to the right of the double team and continue to lead the double-teamed defender and Jack to that area.

 

Mack could setup double team better

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 22, 2017 at 12:40pm PDT

If Mack presses that run to the right, it would allow the center to work towards Jack and seal a lane between Jack and Telvin Smith getting blocked by the wing back. This would have opened a better crease as designed.  While there's a chance that No. 92 pursuing down the line from the backside squeezes off this gap before Mack clears it, a confident and well-rehearsed back between the tackles likely creases that defensive tackle on his way to a bigger gain up the middle.  

Even if this isn't the case, there are several plays that make this point about Mack when he was in college.  Where Mack is most effective between the tackles are quick-hitting plays with one choice or slower developing plays where he doesn't get the ball until the middle is opened up with some form of misdirection (think draws and screens). 

 

Mack short

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 22, 2017 at 12:42pm PDT

Mack's big-play ability is a huge asset and the Colts need to incorporate him far more into the existing offense but not at the expense of Gore, who is clearly the steady, Freeman-like presence between the tackles. It appears that the Colts understand this with how it has been using Mack. 

Look for Mack to earn as much or greater volume to Gore against teams that have the potential to blow them out and less volume in close contests. The Texans and Steelers are two games that could clearly qualify as "Mack" contests. The Bengals, Bills, and Ravens are more likely "Gore" games. The Titans, Jaguars, and Broncos could go either way depending on the health of some of their offensive personnel.  

Youth seems to drive some of our staff's decisions about incumbent backs. We see the split when we discuss the prospects of Mack/Gore and Jones/Ty Montgomery. Here's our roundtable's thoughts:   

Maurile Tremblay: In Green Bay, is it going to be Ty Montgomery or Aaron Jones down the stretch?

Chad Parsons: I am on the side of Ty Montgomery with the qualifier when his ribs are healthy. That may be a few weeks from now, but I believe Aaron Jones is a placeholder and will get most of the snaps until Montgomery is ready to go. I suspect most will assume Aaron Jones is ‘taking over’ as the unquestioned lead back, but Jones, like Jerick McKinnon in Minnesota, has more of a 1B or committee profile than workhorse. As a result, I would be buying Montgomery in the next week or two as a play for later in the season.

Jason Wood: I’ll respectfully disagree with Chad here. I was skeptical of Ty Montgomery being a feature back from the beginning. As a former wide receiver, he’s simply not built to handle an NFL workload. We’ve already seen what an electric difference-maker he can be when given targeted carries in optimal situations. In the meantime, Aaron Jones (who was more impressive than Jamaal Williams in college) has done everything needed to cement himself as the young feature back. There’s always a chance Jones could regress or fumble his way into the doghouse, but absent that I expect him to be the primary ball-carrier for the rest of the season and for years to come.

Justin Howe: As hard as it is for the Packers to take Jones off the field right now, we should expect his rushing efficiency to dip a bit with a greater sample size, so it may grow easier as the season progresses. More importantly, we have to expect a lot of negative game flow for the Brett Hundley-led Packers, so Ty Montgomery should remain a thorn in Jones’ side in terms of snap count. There will be dynamism, of course, but perhaps less consistency as the season wears on.

Jeff Haseley: If last week is any indication of future involvement, then Aaron Jones looks to be the back to own on Green Bay. His 44-to-7 snap count lead over Ty Montgomery is one to take notice of. Jones has shown the ability to handle the loan when called upon. As long as he doesn’t have ball security issues, he looks to be the Packers back of the near future.

Adam Harstad: Honestly, Ty Montgomery has never really profiled as a featured back to me, and I would have thought the Packers agreed after they drafted two more running backs this year, but then they made him a featured back anyway. He’s still very talented, which means Jones and Montgomery will probably both have defined roles in that offense. Bad for owners, good for Green Bay.

Dan Hindery: I think Aaron Jones will end “Wally Pipping” Ty Montgomery. Montgomery has just one career game with more than 60 rushing yards. In just three starts, Jones has topped 125 rushing yards twice. Montgomery is a unique weapon out of the backfield due to his size and receiving background but he has always been miscast as a lead back. While Jones isn’t the biggest guy, he is solidly built and should be able to handle the larger part of a committee role. Expect Jones to keep seeing 15+ touches per game and producing in a Green Bay offense that should still be solid even without Aaron Rodgers.

My Take: Teams value production and Hindery's point that Montgomery only topping 60 rushing yards in a game once is stunning when comparing it to Jones topping 125 yards twice in his 3 career starts. One might think that Montgomery has a clear edge over Jones as a receiver, but that's not so.

Montgomery was always a tweener without a rock-solid position at Stanford. It means he was "just good enough" at both positions. It may give him the slightest edge over Jones as a receiver, but Jones was a fantastic pass catcher at UTEP and there are several examples of him targeted on routes that would qualify as difficult reps for any receiver.

If you made the bold call to spend a significant percentage of your FAAB on Jones, congratulations, you may have a league-winning acquisition.

2. Checking in With the Devy movement

Footballguys has a wide range of excellent fantasy football content. While I generally stick to re-draft and daily fantasy topics, it's time to give some props to Jeff Tefertiller for covering the growing movement of Devy components in fantasy leagues. 

"The term 'devy' refers to developmental players carried on the dynasty league rosters," says Tefertiller. "These devy players are usually college players but can even be high school athletes."

Most fantasy owners presume that I must compete in dozens of leagues. While that was close to the truth 10 years ago, I've decreased my participation to 5-7 leagues. Three of those leagues have either adopted or began with a Devy component. 

This week, Tefertiller profiles his Top 10 Devy quarterbacks who will be eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft. I'm including two of the profiles that I find most interesting based on my preliminary studies of college passers not on my 2018 lists. 

10. Jacob Eason (Georgia) –  The 6’6”, 217-pound true Sophomore was recruited from the state of Washington to travel all the way down to the SEC to play college football.  Many people were wondering if he would honor his commitment to Georgia after coach Mark Richt was encouraged to look for another job, and subsequently landed at the University of Miami. Eason was the top-ranked quarterback for most of the recruiting services and added Gatorade Player of the Year honors.  He recently turned 20 years of age and has a very bright future.  The issue for Eason is that – after leading the Bulldogs to a solid season and Liberty Bowl victory over TCU in 2016, he was replaced earlier this season by true Freshman Jake Fromm.  Eason has only attempted 7 passes on the season while Fromm is playing very well (completing 75 of 121 passes for 1,162 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions).  As though Fromm was not competition enough, Georgia just landed the top quarterback, and arguably the best player in the player in the 2018 recruiting class, Justin Fields.  We still rank Eason high with the thought that he will transfer and be a starter at a different school in the near future. 

5. Will Grier (West Virginia) – Grier was rated by Rivals.com as a four-star recruit and was ranked as the second-best dual-threat quarterback in his class and 46th player overall. Grier was offered scholarships to play football at Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wake Forest. He committed to play quarterback at the University of Florida.  Shortly after, Grier received a one-year suspension, effective October 12, 2015, after it was revealed that he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.  Once his appeal was rejected, Grier transferred to West Virginia.  The redshirt Junior is smaller than ideal (6’2”, 205 pounds) but has a strong arm and is sharp mentally.  Grier threw for 5 touchdowns to beat Texas Tech a week ago.  Draft analyst, Dane Brugler, tweeted this about Grier, “Plenty of good/bad on Grier's film, but some of his best plays come when he's under pressure or forced to move his feet. He has NFL skills.”  We see much of the same.  Grier is not a conventional pocket passer.  Noted draft analyst Kyle Crabbs had this to say, “In short, he has shown an NFL arm, will end the season with a workload the NFL has already proven to be comfortable drafting (approximately 600 pass attempts or more), will be 23 years of age on draft night 2018, and is an NCAA leader in passing touchdowns (21 through six games, T1st), passing yards (2,092 through six games, 9th) and quarterback rating (167.8 through six games, 10th).  Ignore the spread offense. Grier found success early in his career in Florida as well and has brought that success with him to Morgantown. Perhaps it’s time we all took notice.” This quote is from last week, so those numbers have only increased.  College Football Talk tweeted Saturday night, “Ex-Florida/current WVU QB Will Grier has 26 TD passes in seven games. UF has 26 TD passes their last 23 games, dating back to Nov. of 2015.” There is little doubt that the Gators could use Grier given their offensive struggles the past two seasons.

My Take: There are a lot of hit-or-miss aspects to quarterback transfers. If they transfer early enough, they can develop a comfort level with a new system and play excellent football. However, the only late-career transfer in recent memory who succeeded as a pro has been Russell Wilson.

The sooner Eason can transfer, the better. It would not be a surprise if he finds his way to Miami where he can reunite with Richt. While Matthew Stafford is the only successful NFL starter from the Richt regime, there are numerous Georgia quarterbacks during Richt's era that earned reserve jobs in the league and it's a testament to Richt's traditional pro-style leanings that gave his quarterbacks a good foundation as future pros. 

Grier plays in an offense that has generated system stars like Pat White and Geno Smith, but neither broke through in the NFL. However, the NFL wasn't as open-minded about spread systems during White and Smith's entry to the league. Also, keep in mind that the Florida has issues keeping quality NFL quarterback prospects in recent years. Jacoby Brissett was originally a Gator. 

3. Dynasty Rankings movement

Since we're halfway through the season and in another bye-heavy week, let's also check in with dynasty rankings. Tefertiller also monitors Footballguys' dynasty rankings and asks our staff to share its significant changes. Here are four selected takes from this week's article from Andy Hicks and Dan Hindery that caught my eye. 

[Hicks] Paxton Lynch – I’m not sure if the Broncos will be starting to panic, but a record of .500 Is not where the team they imagined they’d be to start the 2017 season. Trevor Siemian has had moments of good play but looks ordinary for the most part. Paxton Lynch isn’t fit enough right now, but as soon as he is you must wonder if they finally let their number 1 pick from the 2016 draft loose to play. The Broncos have a nightmare schedule over the next 3 weeks with Philadelphia and Kansas City away and then a visit from the Patriots. The team could easily be 3-6 or 4-5 and a return of fitness from Lynch could be just in time for a much easier schedule thereafter.

[Hindery] Dak Prescott - Prescott looks like he has made the leap to elite franchise quarterback (and elite fantasy quarterback) in his second season. Over his past four games, Prescott has thrown 11 touchdown passes and rushed for another 3 scores. We know Prescott has extra fantasy value due to his rushing production, but he is now on pace for 37.3 passing touchdowns. If he can keep up this pace, Prescott could head into the offseason as the #1 dynasty quarterback.

[Hindery] Martavis Bryant - When I was a young guy working as a waiter, I was an unreliable employee. I’d call off sick about once every month or two if I was out too late the night before and couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Of all the negative stories that are leaking out about Bryant, the most eye-opening one is that he has called in sick four times in the past month missing practices, meetings and pre-game walk throughs. On top of the history of failed drug tests, lack of production, trade requests, and spats with teammates on social media we are seeing a forest of red flags regarding Bryant. The window to sell high has passed and Bryant’s dynasty value is cratering.

[Hicks] George Kittle – A couple of weeks ago it was bugging me as to why I struggling to embrace George Kittle as his rookie season was moving along impressively. Watching him even more closely I am maybe chasing shadows, but have come to the conclusion that his hands are below average, and his body size isn’t going to be ideal for long-term punishment. He has the chance to work on and improve both areas though, so while it seems foolhardy to write off Rookie Tight Ends before the halfway mark of their debut season, I have seen enough to be concerned about his long-term future in the game.

My Take: Cecil Lammey is as embedded with the Broncos as any beat reporter in the NFL. He'll tell you that Chad Kelly was one of Vance Joseph's guys in last year's draft, and Joseph has not been sold on Lynch. 

Lynch has the arm, above average mobility, and the willingness to play aggressive football. However, he hasn't shown Trevor Siemian's extreme dedication that is a hallmark of franchise starters and his red zone management has always been a weakness, which is incredibly important to coaches. Unfortunately, Siemian's grinding has not helped him break the ceiling on his potential. 

Kelly has Lynch's arm, much greater mobility, and Siemian's fanatical work ethic. He's also savvy beyond his years. Unfortunately, as the football gods compensation for all of these gifts bestowed on Kelly, the young man has been immature and hot-tempered. If he has truly grown and learned his lessons, he has the skills to become the best Mr. Irrelevant in the history of the NFL and he'll get a chance to begin that case in 2018. 

Prescott has been nothing short of fantastic. While I wish I didn't overthink so many of the details of his performances at Mississippi State, I took a second look at those games last year and I'm not sure how much I would have done differently with evaluating him because a lot of those details are reasons for accurate analysis on their young passers. No matter, if there is one quarterback I'd value as the "pay the premium" anchor for a dynasty startup or rehab, Prescott is A-numero-uno on my list.

I have Bryant on one dynasty roster and I believe I'll be stuck with him unless I want to give him away. I'll hope for his market value to climb a little bit during the early stages of a second chance somewhere else in 2018. Then I can dump him. 

I was not a Kittle guy pre-draft. He excited a lot of analysts because he made flashy plays on deep seam routes and wheel routes. He was also a high-effort blocker. But I didn't see the size and consistency in his game. So far, he's flashed and fizzled depending on the moment. 

The acclimation for rookie tight ends is difficult so I think Kittle is still a buy if you can get him for a future mid-round pick or as a throw-in to a trade where the primary option in the deal is far more valuable. Otherwise, he may be overvalued because he's starting as a rookie. Just remember the team he's starting for and be aware that there will be a lot more changes with this 49ers rebuild.

4. Eyes of the Guru

John Norton's Eyes Of The Guru is one of the longest-running IDP columns in the industry. His weekly feature is a terrific rundown of the league and the notable players who could help or hurt your roster. Here are three players along the defensive line who are worth your attention.  

Owners in tackle required leagues should jump on Eddie Goldman. It took him a couple games to get going after missing the first three but Goldman has 11 solo tackles an assist and half a sack in the last two weeks. He showed signs of quality production over his first two seasons and may be in the midst of a breakout season. With quality production from the tackle positions so hard to come by, Goldman is certainly worth adding.  

David Irving had a big impact in his second straight game since returning from suspension. He was 2-1-1 with a forced fumble and a batted pass against Arizona. His average of 17 fantasy points is by far the most of any defensive tackle over the last three weeks. This guy is for real; go get him if you can.

The Jaguars had a Sackfest in Week 7, posting 10 sacks in a game for the second time this season. Yannick Ngakoue was credited with 2.5 of them along with 7 quarterback hits in the game. If this guy could produce with any consistency he would be in the conversation with the fantasy elite at the position. Unfortunately, he is feast or famine with 63.5 combined fantasy points in games versus the Texans, Jets, and Colts, but only 8 total points in the other four games. The good news is a string of excellent matchups in the second half of the season, starting with the Bengals after the bye week and including the Browns, Cardinals, 49ers, and rematches with the Colts and Texans during the fantasy playoffs.   

My Take: I actually have all three of these players on multiple contending rosters this year. Goldman has been a talent that I've added and dropped multiple times over the past three years. If he can finally stay healthy, he can be a force on a Bears defense that has become notably better this year after a few seasons in the trough. 

Irving began his career as a defensive end and his emergence late last fall was an impressive display. I added Irving when he was an end because the Cowboys had a need at the position and Rod Marinelli is known as the excellent teacher who helps his team select its talent and then maximize their potential. 

I was surprised to find that the Cowboys moved Irving to tackle, but his size and strength were good fits for the switch. His quickness and hands are making him a mismatch. If you're in a league where Irving his still available on the waiver wire, you better open another page on your browser right now and amend that oversight.

Ngakoue is a frustrating option to own, but I'm with Norton about the favorable matchups. If you are a potential contender in need at other positions and have an aging elite defensive end, you might want to formulate a package deal that involves Ngakoue in return. It might be a net loss long-term, but his stretch run could be strong enough to prevent a net loss at the position during the rest of the season. 

5. Sleepers

Sigmund Bloom has a good eye for players under the radar who could emerge. It's these types of talents who can often help a roster with a couple of weaknesses remain in contention and frustrate the competition who got bested when thought they had the better team. Here are seven sleepers from Bloom's weekly column that is worth your attention. 

Deonte Thompson, BUF (vs Oakland) - Thompson wasn’t a new face last week for Tyrod Taylor, who played with Thompson as far back as high school and for three years when the two were together in Baltimore. Taylor used the words “trust” “confidence” and “chemistry” describing their connection. Thompson had 4-107 last week on only 14 routes. With more preparation time, he could do even more this week against a Raiders defense that gave up two long scores last week and even allowed the Ravens deep passing game to get going earlier this season.

My Take: I profiled Thompson's output against the Buccaneers in the Top 10 as a player with starter potential as a flex-play. Depending on who you're discussing individually, the Raiders cornerbacks are banged up, underperforming, and/or weak. Thompson is a smart gamble.

Paul Richardson/Tyler Lockett, SEA (vs Houston) - Houston’s pass defense is missing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, so containing Russell Wilson in the pocket is going to be very difficult. We saw Wilson taking copious deep shots last week. Richardson caught one, and Lockett was just overthrown on another. Houston gave up a lot in the downfield passing game to Tom Brady and Alex Smith, so it should be there for Wilson, with one or both of these two on the receiving end.

My Take: Lockett has seen an uptick in touches as a runner and Wilson continues targeting Richardson in the red zone and deep. Richardson and Wilson also worked out together during the bye week at USC. That's a great sign for Richardson as a stretch-run option. 

Tyler Kroft, CIN (vs Indianapolis) - Kroft has been a steady target in place of Tyler Eifert, with three scores in the last three games and at least four catches in all three. Indianapolis has given up scores to tight ends in three of the last four games, and the Bengals should spend enough time in the Colts end of the field to give Kroft a good shot at making it four of five.

My Take: Another player profiled in The Top 10, Kroft isn't as dynamic as Eifert, but he can win the ball in the air and take contact while making the catch. He's a savvy zone receiver with good route skills. With Colts linebacker John Simon out and injuries to the secondary, the greatest risk to Kroft's production this weekend is his teammates cannibalizing his targets with big plays on this YAC-allowing defense.

Bilal Powell/Matt Forte, NYJ (vs Atlanta) - Powell and Forte are situated well to take advantage of a Falcons defense that has allowed three running back receiving touchdowns. Their last two opponents gave their running backs 30 and 31 rushing attempts, so even though Powell and Forte are splitting the work, there could be more than enough to go around as long the Jets keep this one close.

My Take: As the guy who has written the Atlanta Falcons recaps for the past 3-4 years, I endorse Bloom's point about the Falcons defense. These linebackers are athletic but still allow more YAC than they should against running backs. The aging Forte looked like Gale Sayers on a run against the Dolphins last Sunday (I'm not kidding) and Powell remains a steady, underrated producer. 

Dion Lewis, NE (vs Los Angeles Chargers) - The Chargers run defense is among the worst in the league, and that won’t be lost on Bill Belichick, who never likes to take on an opponent’s strength. In this case, that is the edge rush from Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, which can be slowed down by running Lewis and possibly more short passing to James White. Before the Raiders and Broncos inexplicably abandoned the run, the Chargers had given up 122, 136, and 172-yard games to opposing running backs. Lewis has led the team in carries each of the last two games, and he should get the call at the goal line after Mike Gillislee failed when Lewis put them at the one last week.

My Take: If you're considering the Patriots as a fantasy source for your running back needs, you know the risks. The best-calculated gamble this week is Lewis. The Chargers are a 4-3 defense with a weak linebacker unit that doesn't maintain gap discipline. This is a good matchup for a zone scheme.

The Patriots like to use a zone scheme when it hands the ball to Lewis whereas Gillislee is its gap-scheme runner. White remains the backfield constant as a receiver. Lewis and While are the best bets for startable fantasy production.

Gillislee could earn multiple touchdowns in this game if the Patriots find themselves in first and goal situations after prolonged drives that wear down the Chargers defense, and the staff thinks it can push the unit around. However, I'm not sure that's as strong of a bet as it is to stick with the scheme match of Lewis/White.

Good luck this weekend.