Roundtable - Week 12
by FBG Staff
November 21st, 2012

Welcome to this edition of the 2012 Footballguys Roundtable. Feel free to eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics in discussion format. This week, they touch on the following:

  • No more byes
  • Marcel Reece
  • Ronnie Hillman
  • Gronkowski injury
  • Breakout or Blip?
  • No more byes

    We're done with bye weeks. How does that affect your roster composition? Without having to cover for bye weeks, are you trying package flex-type players in a trade for a solid starter? Or do the numerous injuries that have piled up at this point in the season offset the lack of byes?

    ANDY HICKS: As we've seen from the last couple of weeks, injuries at this stage of the year can kill a fantasy team. The Gronkowski and McGahee injuries in particular will be difficult propositions for an owner.

    Getting depth at defense is a good idea, as is a spare kicker if the waiver wire shuts down or you're in a league that makes instant changes difficult. Most rosters are probably carrying an injured guy or two, maybe DeMarco Murray or Aaron Hernandez, so those with them are dealing with agonizing weekly news about their availability.

    That said, trading at this time of year is perfect for those with superb depth at one position. If you have Matt Schaub as your backup, his value will never be higher and you won't have to worry about him possibly being rested in week 16. Those with three solid running backs would be wise to keep them, but if you somehow have four or five then trade one away with a tough schedule for the playoffs. I've always found wide receivers are the most difficult to trade; they usually are used as an extra carrot to a reluctant owner.

    Of course, there will be plenty of owners out of playoff running and trading with them brings about its own problems. Those in keeper leagues or leagues that have some weekly interest are able to cast a wider net, but most leagues peak trading season is over as the good teams don't want to part with anything and the weak teams have nothing left to play for.

    In conclusion, the most important piece I read now is the strength of schedule for the playoffs. I then assess if that team has something to play for or is not going to tank it, even with a good schedule. If I can improve my roster, I will leave no stone unturned. If you have your team in place for a good run at your fantasy playoffs, then you need to assess your potential competition and if they have weaknesses get any player that can strengthen their teams as well, roster size permitting.

    Are you dumping offensive backups for an extra team defense to use down the stretch?

    CHASE STUART: Obviously you only need to carry one kicker, but yes, you should consider dropping your last receiver for a second defense (if you don't have one already). Defenses are unpredictable but offenses are not, and being able to face a bad offense each week could help you win your Super Bowl.

    I think the time for holding on to lottery ticket running backs has come and gone, with the Ronnie Hillman owners being the last winners. Look ahead to matchups, and see what type of players you will want to start in your fantasy playoffs. You need to still have a backup TE and QB to cover for injuries, but a third is probably overkill at both spots.

    JEFF HASELEY: If anything, the full 16 game schedule means my full roster is at my disposal. I agree that adding a second defense (if there's a viable one available) is a good idea. Go ahead and drop that extra wide receiver that you don't really need or would ever find a spot in the lineup for, and pick up a second defense. I welcome the end of the bye weeks, but that also means that my opponent will be playing with a full deck, minus injuries of course. The point totals will go up for weekly games, resulting in a higher score that's needed to win the week. Strategy takes a back seat and talent wins out. Hopefully your roster has plenty of production, because now is the time when you need your lineup to really kick in.

    GREG RUSSELL: It's time to position yourself to be as strong as possible in the playoffs. Whether IDP or Team Defense, consider using some roster space on those who should have favorable matchups during your playoff weeks.

    For leagues whose playoffs run later into the season, it's also time to consider the impact of teams who may be resting starters at the end of the season, and make moves now to be prepared. NFL teams can differ heavily in how they react to having clinched. The Patriots haven't shown as much history of resting starters, while on the other end of the spectrum, the Texans last year played a backup tight end at linebacker to keep starters off the field.

    If you are in leagues that run into week 16 and 17, consider which of your starters might be impacted and cover yourself as best you can. While hopefully you already have Ben Tate if you won Arian Foster, consider picking up Justin Forsett if you haven't already. If you rely on a Julio Jones or Roddy White, consider WR Harry Douglas to give you options should your starters not be available. With the Packers on a tear and much of the NFC North fading, Graham Harrell may see time late in the season if Green Bay can clinch early.

    Marcel Reece

    Will the Raiders' backfield be a committee situation when Darren McFadden comes back? Reece is not only a stellar receiver out of the backfield, but he's also running the ball well. Has he showed enough to earn a large role in the offense even when McFadden is healthy?

    ANDY HICKS: Those of us who have watched Marcel Reece over the last couple of years have said he is being underutilized by the Raiders. Now that he is the last man standing, it seems that the penny has dropped with the coaching staff. Or has it? The running scheme in Oakland persists in trying to make McFadden (square peg) fit their (round hole) offense.

    Looking at the consistent stupidity that has plagued the Raiders for years, be it relentless penalties, ridiculous turnovers or simple boneheaded play or coaching, I honestly have no clue what the Raiders are going to do once McFadden and/or Mike Goodson gets healthy. Reece could continue his current role, play as the primary receiver or ride the bench. Nothing would shock me when it comes to the Raiders.

    What should happen is that the Raiders should allow McFadden to utilize his skill set to his best abilities and get Marcel Reece on the field as much as possible in relief, to change the pace or to use his receiving skill. That would be too simple, though.

    CHASE STUART: Is it too early to say that Dennis Allen is coaching for his job? I think he puts the best player on the field, and that's been Reece. We all know McFadden is way more talented, and he should still get the bulk of the carries, but how do you keep Reece off the field? That said, it would be a little easier to make this call if the Raiders had been winning with Reece. Instead, he's gained 297 yards from scrimmage the last 2 weeks with the Raiders losing by 56 points.

    Will Reece be as productive in non-garbage time situations? That's difficult to say. But I don't see any reason for Oakland to rush McFadden back or to stop using Reece over the next few weeks. With nothing to play for and a competent backup, I expect Oakland to take it easy with McFadden, which is bad news for his fantasy owners but good news for those who were able to grab Reece.

    JEFF HASELEY: This is arguably one of the bigger topics this week. If Darren McFadden is healthy enough to play this week, I think we will see him as the main running back, but I don't think we've seen the last of Marcel Reece. He'll still get opportunities, but they may be more as a pass catching back, going back to the way he was used before the injury to McFadden. I think it's fair to expect 4-5 catches from Reece this week (if McFadden returns). He is still a decent flex option in point-per-reception leagues, who is capable of turning a screen pass into a long gain. This could have a negative effect on McFadden. It's possible that he won't see as many receptions going forward. Like Andy said, Oakland is hard to gauge and we'll find out when it happens.

    MATT WALDMAN: McFadden is way more talented in an offense where he can run behind a pulling guard and focus on getting through one hole. When presented with choices, he's bad. It is that simple look at his performances in the zone blocking system and the angle blocking system and it's a glaring example of how important "fit" is with personnel. McFadden thrived in an angle blocking scheme at Arkansas. When he had the occasional zone or two-way go situation, he didn't look nearly as good. Reece fits better in a zone system and catches the ball better. I'm not going to talk about what will happen if-when McFadden returns other than say what should happen is to give Reece the starting job, but if you go by the theory of contract dictating role then there's no chance of it happening.

    I just want to see players get a chance to do what they do best. Just as Powell and Peerman are getting shafted, I think McFadden needs to find a team willing to run power, tosses, and other plays where he gets to do what he does best: use his ungodly athleticism with a singular, courageous focus. That's when he's a nightmare.

    Ronnie Hillman

    With Willis McGahee definitely out for the rest of the regular season, Ronnie Hillman should get a chance to shine. What should we expect out of him?

    CHASE STUART: Hillman is a top-15 running back the rest of the way. I can't see any reason to bench him in standard leagues unless you're simply loaded. He's going to get the majority of the carries and with Peyton Manning keeping defenses honest, he should be able to shine. Denver's remaining schedule is the easiest in the league, which is great news for Hillman fantasy owners. Simply get him in your lineup if you have him. In games against Kansas City and Oakland, two of the Broncos' next three opponents, it's hard to think of many players with more fantasy upside than Hillman.

    JEFF HASELEY: I think Hillman will be the main winner here, but there's also the case of John Fox wanting to use a more experienced, bigger back to carry the load, and that could be Lance Ball. Although I don't necessarily see it happening, Ball could be the primary rusher, while Hillman comes in for certain situations. Again, I think Hillman will see the majority of the carries, but if Fox pulls one of his conservative types of moves, Lance Ball could see plenty of snaps and put a wrinkle in the young rookie's promise.

    MATT WALDMAN: I think the Peyton Manning factor is the reason I'm bullish on Hillman. The young back still isn't fully trusted by the team. If he were we wouldn't be hearing about Lance Ball or Knowshon Moreno, who are both solid in pass protection. At the same time, Manning is so good at generating first downs, that Hillman should see enough opportunities on run downs that he can generate solid yardage even as a top-flight, flex-play. Conservatively that's what he'll be. His upside is top-15, but I think his floor is top-30, which is still a reason to add him.

    ANDY HICKS: I'm not so sure that Hillman will get 20+ carries a game. This offense runs through Peyton Manning and Hillman needs to work on his pass protection before he'll be in on most downs. Lance Ball isn't as good a runner, but he will be the 3rd down back and more. I'd rate Hillman in the 20-30 range here on out, knowing that John Fox won't tolerate a rookie mistake in a crucial game when this team is headed for the playoffs in a strong position.

    GREG RUSSELL: Hillman is in a great situation, but he still has more to prove to the Broncos than just that he can carry a football before he's going to be able to capitalize on it. I would be hesitant to say he's going to be an every week fantasy starter, though that's certainly within his reach. Until we've seen more of him, I would approach him as a spot start when his matchup is favorable and you have another starter with a poor matchup.

    Gronkowski injury

    It looks like Rob Gronkowski will be out for at least a month.

    Aaron Hernandez is looking to return this week. But will he just be plugged into the role that Gronkowski has occupied with Hernandez out, or are they different types of TEs such that it won't be that simple?

    CHASE STUART: It's hard to know Hernandez's value because no one knows how healthy he is. He's a player you have to start if he's playing, though, especially without Gronkowski. They are different players but Gronkowski is a huge mouth in a monster offense; take him out and everyone gets more of the pie, including Hernandez, who was doing more than fine (when healthy) when Gronkowski was there. The good news if you don't have to worry about Hernandez staying in and taking on more of a blocking role with Gronkowski out; the bad news is no one knows how many snaps Hernandez will give you in a game.

    The big key as far as fantasy value without Gronkowski is who will score the TDs? I expect more of Ridley and even a few more Brady sneaks, so don't worry too much about the star quarterback's fantasy value. Lloyd seems like the obvious beneficiary once New England reaches the red zone.

    ANDY HICKS: Like Chase said, losing Gronkowski is kind of like losing their star offensive weapon. No one will leap in and get the majority of his play, it will be distributed among the many capable players the Patriots have to call upon. Hernandez is difficult to rate given his weekly tease of availability. If, and at the moment that is a big if, his is healthy he would benefit most from Gronkowski's absence, but there will be very few owners who had both Patriot Tight Ends, so Gronkowski owners are in strife. Hernandez owners will be hoping for some reward on a miserable season for them to date.

    JEFF HASELEY: The loss of Rob Gronkowski is huge in any format. Chances are Aaron Hernandez owners were able to pick up Brandon Myers or maybe even Kyle Rudolph once they got word that Hernandez would miss significant time. There's a strong chance that Rob Gronkowski owners do not have an adequate replacement, because there was not a specific need to find a backup earlier in the year. Those who have Hernandez, either moved on to someone else, or struggled to fill the void. In any event his return will definitely help. I anticipate Hernandez will be used quite often, but I don't necessarily see him filling Gronkowski's in-line tight end role. That may be occupied by Visanthe Shiancoe, allowing Hernandez to thrive in his more natural "move" tight end spot. One receiver who could get slighted as a result of all of this, is Brandon Lloyd. Hernandez plays like a receiver and lines up as one. The Patriots have shown that they want to get Julian Edelman involved more, plus they already have Wes Welker firmly entrenched in the offense. The one I see getting squeezed is Lloyd. I envision Hernandez as a TE1 going forward, helping to fill the void left by Gronkowski, but not in the same way Gronkowski was featured.

    MATT WALDMAN: I'm adding Edelman and Vereen where I can get them, especially Edelman. I think we're all fooling ourselves if we claim to know what the Patriots will do. They are just as liable to go four receivers and roll with Woodhead and Edelman. Woodhead is a discount option who could help in flex scenarios for cheap. Edelman has the speed to play outside and with Lloyd dealing with a knee injury for weeks on end, I think he's basically a usable decoy on deep routes and toughing it out so the Patriots have someone to keep top corners occupied.

    I'm still giving Hernandez a shot because I want to see how healthy he is and I know what he can do as that hybrid, X-factor. However, I'm not trading for him unless I can get him in a package deal and only if I have TE depth that I feel good playing if he doesn't work out. In other words, not a lot of deals are going to entice me to take him. At the same time, I'm not trading him way, either.

    GREG RUSSELL: I agree there is a lot of uncertainty about who will benefit the most from Gronkowski's missed time. I'd lean towards giving everyone on the offense a modest bump, but giving WRs Wes Welker and Julian Edelman the largest increases. No one can replace what Gronkowski brings to the field, so I would look for the Patriots to use the pair of small, quick receivers out of the slot to make up for what Gronkowski provides up the middle of the field.

    Breakout or Blip?

    Each of the following players had big games in week eleven. An aberration, or a sign of things to come?

    Justin Blackmon It took 11 weeks, but Blackmon finally had the kind of dominant game we expect every so often from a true stud. Is going to be startable during the fantasy playoffs, or was that likely to be his only big performance this season?

    CHASE STUART: I wouldn't bench Blackmon if I had him, that's for sure. Jerry Rice is the only rookie receiver in the last 30 years to gain more receiving yards in a game than Blackmon. Perhaps Henne is the secret sauce that makes Blackmon shine? Who knows, but he has the pedigree and now he has the resume. No one will blame you for having him on your bench against Houston, but it's your own fault if you don't play him against the Titans.

    JEFF HASELEY: I think you give the Henne to Blackmon combination another week and see what happens. He's worth a flex option start just to see what he can do for an encore. Let's just hope he's not another Dez Bryant, who disappears every other game, if not more.

    ANDY HICKS: Whether the light bulb was truly turned on or more likely indicative of rookie inconsistency we'll see soon enough, but I tend to favor the latter. Chasing points can be a risky proposition in fantasy football, or maybe Blackmon is going to have good games more often than not. With Jacksonville and Chad Henne, I don't think we can be too hopeful of continued magnificence, but it's better than it was before last week. You have to start him this week, but after that we'll see.

    MATT WALDMAN: Blackmon is worth a try, but I wouldn't go nuts over him. He's slow as molasses compared to most outside receivers. Watch the game and you'll see how long it took him to get down field and the kind of help he had as he was trucking his way for extra yardage. He's a more physical Michael Crabtree, which gives him future fantasy value and possibly even good chances for the present. However, the only thing Blackmon has in common with Jerry Rice is Chase's link to the two. I think Blackmon is a solid flex-play, but I'm not expecting back-to-back 100-yard games from him.

    GREG RUSSELL: While 5-7 catches a game may be feasible for Blackmon with Henne at quarterback, I wouldn't put much stock in last week's yardage as something that will repeat often this year. A large chunk of his yardage came running free after defenders took each other out of the play without Blackmon doing much to make it happen. He's probably not much better than a WR4 down the stretch, and even that might be generous.

    Garrett Graham Eight catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. I don't think anybody saw that coming. Is he going to keep getting significant targets, or will he slink back into Owen Daniels' shadow?

    CHASE STUART: Garrett Graham and Chad Henne had the games of their lives. The game scripts won't go that way often enough for Houston to use Graham that much, so I'd pass.

    JEFF HASELEY: I am not sure what to think of Garrett Graham going forward, but I'm leaning on him not being a consistent threat. He was able to reach those numbers with Owen Daniels also on the field as the main tight end. Anytime you have a 500-yard passer, you're bound to have a few receiving anomalies. I think that's what Graham's performance was a fluke.

    ANDY HICKS: Garrett Graham is a guy I've been waiting for since he was drafted. Owen Daniels is now over 30 and injury prone, whereas James Casey tends to primarily be a blocker and occasional receiver. Graham may have just had a fluke game, but he has talent and the Texans know how to get this position stats. While Daniels and Casey are healthy this year, we are unlikely to see a repeat for Graham, but he is one worth watching for next year depending on developments on the roster.

    MATT WALDMAN: This was my take on Graham from the 2010 RSP as an Underrated Prospect:

    Garrett Graham, Wisconsin: The detractors of Graham's game say he isn't big enough to block at the line of scrimmage and not fast enough to stretch the seam. I believe Graham is very similar to his fellow Wisconsin alumnus Owen Daniels. Graham is quicker than fast, knows how to get cleanly up the seam, and he adjusts very well to the football. He's an excellent blocker capable of making plays from a variety of positions to help the run game. Graham is a better prospect than his former teammate Travis Beckum. He might have to earn his chance to start over the course of a year, but he will.

    Does this make Graham a great play down the stretch? No, but it does make him a decent desperation option for the TE-poor unable to swing a deal. The reason is the Houston offense that loves to use two-tight end sets with more frequency than any team not in New England. It's a gamble, but a smart one due to the big-play/red zone upside that this scheme offers.

    GREG RUSSELL: Don't expect many repeat performances, especially this year. Houston was only averaging 31 pass attempts per game, but threw the ball 55 times in a game that included nearly a fully played overtime period. Graham won't see enough passes to be starter worthy.

    Julian Edelman Over 100 yards from scrimmage and a receiving touchdown (in addition to a punt-return touchdown). With Gronkowski out for a bit and Hernandez fighting through a bum ankle, will Edelman get enough looks to be a decent fantasy flex option?

    JEFF HASELEY: I like Edelman going forward. He was a candidate for a breakout receiver earlier in the year and we forgot about him, because of his hand injury. Now that he's back and healthy, he's doing it again. I think he's someone that we can count on as a fantasy threat moving forward. He may not have huge games each week, but he is on a very potent team and he has shown that he can make plays. I'm buying him.

    ANDY HICKS: When given sufficient playing time Edelman has produced well. They key factor here is how often he'll see the field. The Patriots have many guys they can plug in depending on the matchups and game plan. Edelman seems to be the guy that can slot into a few different positions and contribute, sort of Jack of all trades, master of none. I'm not sure if he can be relied upon for consistent production, but if you're desperate there are far worse guys you could be adding to your roster.

    MATT WALDMAN: I'm not buying the Visanthe Shiancoe resurgence. It could happen, but I think the Pats have been waiting to use Edelman more if not for injury. I expect to see more days with 100 total yards ahead for him. This team could run more spread, use Vereen as a draw, screen player in the shotgun, and have Edelman as the fourth receiver. They'll also use him as a No.2 or No.3 in other alignments like they did last week. Not a fluke.

    GREG RUSSELL: I liked Julian Edelman's prospects before his injury and believe the Gronkowski injury should indeed make him fantasy relevant. Particularly in leagues that give return yardage, Edelman will definitely be in the flex range and WR3 production is not at all out of reach.

    Bilal Powell Shonn Greene hasn't been overly impressive, and Powell came in to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from the Rams on Sunday. Does this have the look of an RBBC going forward, or will Greene resume carrying the huge majority of the workload down the stretch?

    CHASE STUART: Powell is fool's gold, in my opinion. On the very rare occasion that the Jets are blowing teams out, he'll have some value, but for key from Sunday's game against St. Louis was that Greene had a very good game. He ran hard and produced first downs, and has a strong grip on the job.

    JEFF HASELEY: With the Jets announcing that they will be using a three-back approach, that tells me all I need to know RBBC. He may have some good runs here and there, but I doubt he will be the primary ball carrier in the Jets offense.

    ANDY HICKS: I don't think anyone is getting carried away with the Jets running game. Most of us are waiting for the Rex Ryan experiment to be over and the Jets to try all over again with a new coach who'll turn over half the roster, including the Running Back position. For now, Powell's game was a fluke, Greene will continue to batter away until the Jets fall behind. If the Jets manage to keep in a game or even lead, then Greene will get first bite of the cherry and Powell picks up the scraps. Desperation play only.

    MATT WALDMAN: I agree with Chase that Powell is Fool's Gold. I believe in the player's talent, but if I had two football wishes when it came to personnel, I'd hypnotize Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis and suggest they stop messing around with Shonn Greene and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and insert Powell and Cedric Peerman for extended opportunities over a two-game stretch. Alas, Powell only earns real chances if there's a new coach or more mass injuries to the depth chart.

    LaRod Stephens-Howling He had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, and also found the end zone for the third time in four games. Has he solidified a big enough role in the offense that he'll be fantasy-relevant even after Chris Wells returns?

    JEFF HASELEY: I see LaRod Stephens-Howling giving way to Chris Wells upon his return and moving back to a change of pace, third down specialty back. He may get a few carries here and there, but I don't see him maintaining any kind of lead running back role.

    CHASE STUART: I don't think anyone believes that Stephens-Howling is a long term proposition, but he has done very well in his limited time. Given the awful offensive line and terrible QB play, I guess someone has to contribute on offense, but the Cardinals haven't had this good a performance from a running back in a while. Edgerrin James had three 100-yard games in 2007 and 2006, while Adrian Murrell had three in 1998. No one has had more than that since 1995. I think Stephens-Howling can join them this year, but doubt he'll be able to get the fourth to make modern history as an Arizona RB. This franchise is clearly needing a dominant back, but Stephens-Howling isn't it. Once Chris Wells comes back he is backing him up.

    MATT WALDMAN: Very elusive, but so is the consistency of his blocking. Until you find me blockers and a quarterback, I'm not buying a scat back on a consistent basis.

    Chad Henne With Blaine Gabbert on Injured Reserve, he's the starter for as long as he stays healthy? Any fantasy value here?

    JEFF HASELEY: I am not sure if I would go out on a limb and say there's fantasy value with Chad Henne, but then again look what Colin Kaepernick did. I need to see him find success again in order to consider him a fantasy value moving forward.

    ANDY HICKS: As others have said, they need a little more convincing before they climb on board the Chad Henne express. Henne had a good game, many have, but let's just take it one week at a time and if you are considering starting him, I'm sorry you took so many hits at QB this year.

    CHASE STUART:Jacksonville simply lacks the talent to make him a fantasy option in any 1QB league.

    MATT WALDMAN: Always possible for a former starter against bad defenses. I also love Cecil Shorts regardless of the quarterback they use. Henne is aggressive to the point of recklessness, but he will sometimes help you win big with throws that as a coach you say "no, no, no . . . GOOD JOB!" If he's the only port in the storm, sure. Otherwise, I'm sailing past.

    GREG RUSSELL: Henne is likely an improvement over Blaine Gabbert, but now that bye weeks are past he likely won't have much fantasy value to anyone but the most injury-depleted fantasy team in leagues that start 2 QBs. Henne did a good job getting rid of the ball before pressure got to him, but his yardage reflects some large runs after the catch caused mostly by fluky defensive miscues... defenders tackling each other, or losing their footing causing them to whiff on a tackle. Despite the gaudy yardage totals, Henne completed only 48% of his passes. Don't rely on him for anything other than a start in emergency.

    That will do it for this edition of the Roundtable. Enjoy the games this weekend, and we'll see you back here next week!

    © 2012 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved