This week we discuss the following:
- RBs in a position to thrive?
- Returning WRs
- Fosterless Texans
- Orleans Darkwa
- Is Alfred Morris droppable?
- Miami offense
- Kirk Cousins
Darren McFadden, Alfred Blue, and Charcandrick West have mostly been un-owned or at the end of people's benches until very lately. They have each basically had one good game so far, but are in a position to potentially get the bulk of their teams' carries down the stretch.
Which ones, if any, make good speculative trade targets right now before their true value—or lack thereof—is better revealed?
Jeff Pasquino: I would go after McFadden. Sure, he is brittle, but any back that can play the way he can that gets a shot to carry 20+ times behind an elite offensive line is worth owning and playing as a RB2 with RB1 upside.
West would be a distant second on my list as he is not consistent enough on a weekly basis, and the game script can push him out of production—as could Knile Davis.
Matt Waldman: Let's unpack this a little more, because it's not a straightforward answer unless you just play in one league type across the board. Kansas City's schedule is more favorable than Dallas's. West also has less competition than McFadden. With West and McFadden the answer also lies just as much with the teams adjusting to what these runners do well. West is better at downhill runs than some of the off-tackle and outside runs that Jamaal Charles excelled at. I saw West have more success downhill against the Steelers and I expect we'll see more carries where West isn't asked to do as much diagnostic work near the line of scrimmage as Charles does as the starter. With Chris Conley getting more acclimated to the NFL game and Jeremy Maclin bound to return from his concussion sooner rather than later, I think West is worth serious consideration—especially if you are in a situation where you actually need his services.
That situation is most likely one where your team is below .500 and needs to win out to contend for a playoff spot. While McFadden is a more talented athlete, but not by as much as you think if you check out West's impressive SPARQ scores, the real edge the former Raider has is experience in the league and a better offensive line. The edge West may have is that McFadden has been a consistent producer for one season and injury wasn't the only factor that led to his demise from remaining an NFL starter. He's versatile in the sense that he can catch the ball, but he's effective at a variety of scheme types. He's a boom-or-bust runner and I would have concerns as a sub-.500 fantasy team putting my chips in an option who can give you 20 points one week and 4-six the next three, when I thin West is more capable of providing 10-12 points consistently, which is something a team can rely on as a building block to make moves that matter. It's a small difference, but for teams where every win counts, I could see the argument for taking the less flashy West.
Blue and Polk are capable of delivering points, but relying on them in this offense when the defense hasn't played well is risky. I'd rather ride Antonio Andrews or Khiry Robinson for a few weeks until a player like David Cobb or Stevan Ridley is ready to make contributions. Andrews runs hard, catches the ball well, and he's working with a quarterback who can stretch the field. It should open a little more for Andrews to get the job done. Mark Ingram II is the man in New Orleans—well, as much as a RB can be the man in a system that will switch backs every play for 3-five consecutive plays on a drive. Even so, Robinson is Mr. Inside to C.J. Spiller's Mr. Outside when the Saints give Ingram a breather. Robinson also earns goal line looks. I'd consider these two before I venture to Houston.
Jason Wood: I respectfully disagree with Jeff; McFadden remains pyrite. Fool's gold. If you somehow had him on your roster going into last week, you weren't starting him. You might start him this week but we've seen nothing to dissuade our preseason view that he cannot and will not be able to sustain a full-time workload. I want no part of McFadden. The guy to trade for right now is Randle. He'll get over that oblique injury soon enough and when he does, he once again becomes the team's best running back.
Charcandrick West isn't a special player, but he is a more capable NFL runner than Knile Davis. West needs an optimal game script, but the schedule is favorable and I think in a year when so few running backs are trustworthy on a week-to-week basis, West is no worse than a low-end RB2 in 12-team leagues.
I want no part of Blue. We've seen enough of him to know he won't approximate Foster's production—not even close.
Andy Hicks: I wouldn't be quite as quick as Jason to target Randle. Oblique injuries can linger for a long time or reoccur very easily. I would agree with Jason though that McFadden is likely to prove fool's gold. The back to target in Dallas isn't there and could change from week to week. If you enjoy a good gamble, this is the team and position to gamble with. If you want something more certain, look elsewhere.
Like Knile Davis proved last year, the fill-in for a Jamaal Charles injury is valuable in the short term. I know we have a long way to go in the fantasy season, but my guess is that Charcandrick West is a short flame that bursts brightly and then burns out quickly. Whether he can stretch that flame for 10 weeks is doubtful. If for some reason he is on the waiver wire then you have to snap him up, but if he is on another team's roster I wouldn't bother trying to grab him. If he is on your roster then play the matchups carefully. If he is against an average or worse run defense like the Steelers then play him.
Houston is treading water right now and likely to submerge once the Colts or Jaguars put some distance in the division. While the Texans have a shot though, Alfred Blue is rosterable and even startable against teams in his own division or similar. Once the cause is lost then the Texans are playing for next year and while it's likely Blue is not in the long term plans of the team and next regime he has the chance to earn that time in the next few weeks. We've seen enough to be nothing more than hopeful, but sometimes players improve when given the chance. Not without a hope.
Dave Larkin: The prevailing sentiment on the Dallas backfield is one I would be in line with; there simply is no back, as Andy said, that can be trusted right now. The oblique injury to Joseph Randle is a bit of an unknown, and it is likely only a matter of time until McFadden breaks down again. Matt brings up an excellent point about the Chiefs' usage of West, relying on more downhill, power runs than ones that require diagnosis at the line of scrimmage. If Andy Reid can continue to scheme favorable plays for West, he can be an every-week, low-ceiling RB2 in an offense that will get a boost upon the return of Jeremy Maclin.
The Houston backfield is one I would be staying away from. Yes, Alfred Blue could produce a fluky 100-yard performance or two purely based on volume as the Texans find themselves in comeback mode, but that won't be sustainable. I think we will see a 65-35 timeshare between him and Chris Polk at best, and that ratio could skew Polk's way if game scripts go south.
Stephen Holloway: I agree with the group in that I am staying away from the entire Houston backfield. Both Blue and Polk are adequate, but the team's offense overall is weak and those two will share the opportunities.
I prefer West over Davis in Kansas City based on the split last week and that West produced when he had the opportunity.
My preferred running back of this group is McFadden. I, like Jeff, acknowledge that McFadden is brittle, but ever since Randle almost fumbled away a touchdown stretching out the ball several weeks back, the Cowboys have seemed to prefer McFadden. His talents and recent production with their outstanding offensive line give him the best chance to continue his success. Their quarterback play is worrisome, but even that should improve with the return of Dez Bryant.
Bruce Hammond: The only one of the three I'd have much interest in is Charcandrick West. He has the backing of Coach Andy Reid and appears to have some ability. He's obviously no Jamaal Charles but the Chiefs seem to believe he can do a fair imitation so I think he'll continue in the primary role unless he proves he can't handle the job. So far he has done well enough.
Having stopped believing McFadden at least a couple years ago, it's going to take more than just one game for me to jump on his bandwagon, and I doubt I will get on board any time soon. The thing you are more likely to be able to count on is a return to underachieving or getting hurt (or both) in the next week or two. No thanks.
Alfred Blue has no lock on the starting role with Arian Forster done for the year and perhaps his career as a Texan. While Blue has usually been the primary backup when Foster has been out with previous injuries in 2014 and 2015, he managed a dismal 3.3 YPC on 229 carries over that span. He did have two games where he had over 100 yards, one in 2014 and one in 2015, but both came against poor defenses and even then the best YPC he could manage was a bit under 4.5. I don't see Blue suddenly becoming anything special going forward, and probably sooner rather than later the Texans may turn to Polk to see what he can do given a legitimate shot at the starting role. It looked like Polk and not Blue was the #2 in the three games Foster was back. Jonathan Grimes may also be in the mix.
Mark Wimer: I'm not a huge Darren McFadden fan due to his well-documented durability issues, but Joseph Randle has been demoted officially by the Cowboys and now word is leaking out that he faces a possible NFL suspension (perhaps multiple games) due to several incidents (unlawful possession of marijuana, domestic violence with a weapon, shoplifting).
Given that Randle is likely gone for an extended period of time, I am reluctantly on the McFadden bandwagon as he looks firmly in the #1 role as of Week 8, and that offensive line opens big enough holes that he should do well as long as he stays healthy.
Charcandrick West is the man the Chiefs have selected to go with—based on volume alone he should be on the RB2-RB3 cusp every week, with RB1 upside. If you can still snatch him off waivers I would.
Alfred Blue is another guy who will see chances, but with Hoyer slinging the ball around quite a bit and a shaky secondary that has allowed a league-worst 16 passing scores to date, it's hard to see the Texans closing out games with big leads, so I don't see Blue garnering a lot of 20+ carry games going forwards—mid-teens in carries is likely his upside, and he's not very explosive, so he's the least appealing of this group in my opinion.
These guys have played very little so far this season, but they're expected to be available down the stretch. Which ones can be every-week fantasy starters over the second half of the season?
Dave Larkin: Well, Dez Bryant's name pops out straight away. He should provide an instant spark for the floundering Dallas offense upon his return, although it may come before the return of his quarterback Tony Romo. Bryant is a player I would advise fantasy owners to try to acquire before it is too late.
DeSean Jackson will be a welcome boost for the Washington offense, but when I trust a receiver I am also trusting a quarterback, and I'm not fully convinced Kirk Cousins can remain viable all season as a starter. A mistake-ridden game or two could be on the horizon, and I wonder how quickly Jay Gruden would be willing to pull the plug. Colt McCoy would be an instant downgrade for Jackson, who relies on deep patterns for his fantasy viability.
Of the remaining options, I would side with Brandon LaFell. It may take him time to get his feet under him after a long lay-off, but the Patriots offense needs an outside threat to truly take off. LaFell and Tom Brady riffed very well with each other last season and the former Panthers receiver quietly produced a 74-reception season.
LaFell is one of my top waiver wire guys for this week. He had eight targets last week and had the dropsies, catching only two for 25 yards. The targets speak volumes (pun intended) to me, as Brady is looking in his direction. I can see a 7-100-one game coming his way very soon.
DeSean Jackson is a big-play wide receiver, and it has to be seen how he will mesh with Kirk Cousins. Jackson has to be 100% healthy to be explosive and get deep, plus Cousins has to connect with him on those deep strikes. Big risk, big reward possible.
I still think Buffalo would rather run the ball more than throw it, and the Bills are very unstable both at quarterback and in general as an organization. Undisciplined penalties and inconsistent performances likely will limit Watkins this season.
Matt Waldman: The order they are listed in is the order I'd consider them in re-draft leagues. Dez Bryant is an every-week guy for sure. They'll find ways to get him the ball regardless of the QB: Romo, Cassel, or Weeden. They'll use him all over the field.
I'm a little leery of Jackson's opportunities upon return to the field only because there's scuttlebutt that he'll be gone after this year. But he's too good not to value as a high-variance WR2. Jamison Crowder has been solid for Washington, but Jackson is a step up and the offense can use Crowder in the slot, which is often the case and was originally the plan before Jackson got hurt. I expect Crowder's production to suffer.
Watkins is intriguing, but only because he's a great talent and Percy Harvin's injuries give the second-year option top billing. He's probably a low-ceiling WR3 with enough variance that he's better off as a flex play in lineups that start 3-five WRs. LaFell has to compete for too many targets each week. I like him as a flex play, but Amendola, Edelman, Gronkowski, Chandler and Lewis are all playing well. LaFell also has some drops and Aaron Dobson got some play at LaFell's expense last week. Not that I expect a changing of the guard between those two, but I think the role for LaFell is harder to carve out than the three other options listed.
Jason Wood: I agree with my colleagues for the most part.
All four could be every-week starters if circumstances allow it. LaFell is the longest shot, but the way the Patriots are playing he'll get his opportunities. The six drops in his first game back make it hard to bet on a major resurgence for LaFell, though. The other three should be every-week starters so long as they're truly healthy. Dez is a top-10 guy at a minimum; that shouldn't even be up for debate. The other two—Watkins and Jackson—are more matchup plays depending on how their respective offenses can perform.
Andy Hicks: Dez Bryant should come back as a WR2 at minimum with Matt Cassel around, but once Romo is back he will resume his WR1 status. This whole offense will look better once the two are back together. Of course injury interrupted seasons can affect momentum and depending on how ready either or both are depends on their ultimate success. The Dez owner won't give him up now. He might have a down game or two when he gets back. That would be the time to strike if you have the ammunition.
The Washington offense hasn't missed Desean Jackson as much as he would have liked. Like Matt mentioned, I think his salary numbers could mean that Washington will be keen to test youngsters like Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant. I guess if Washington still is in the hunt in the NFC East they will be willing to throw Jackson out there and see if he resumes normal service, but his fantasy production will be risky and hard to rely on until we see a true picture of how he fits in for the rest of the season.
Sammy Watkins will be featured heavily, but I still don't think Buffalo has a quarterback who will get the best out of him. Watkins can make a quarterback look better than he actually is, though, and like Matt said he has WR3 upside. I'm not sure if this team is developing cohesion or chaos though and until that picture becomes clearer he presents a pretty low downside.
Brandon LaFell is not going to be an easy guy to insert into a fantasy lineup. The drops are only the beginning of the issues, but if they continue it will be easy for Tom Brady to look elsewhere. All his other receivers have much surer hands and proven production this season. If the first game back is just rust, which I doubt as he has had handling issues in the past, then he will have a nice game or two and like most things in the Patriots offense it will be difficult to predict in advance.
Stephen Holloway: As others have stated, Dez Bryant's talent puts him easily at the top of this list, but factoring in the Cowboys' quarterback play until Romo returns, the production may not match expectations.
My second choice is Brandon LaFell. He had a case of the dropsies in his return last week, but got eight targets. He provides a different dimension for Brady and could slide into his second target after Gronkowski. The Patriot's offense has been outstanding all season and he could capitalize on the high number of targets for some huge games.
Watkins and Jackson bring up the rear from me. Jackson's return from the hamstring concerns me as he could reinjure it and then miss the entire season. I am also not a huge fan of Cousins, his quarterback. I like the talent of Sammy Watkins, but his plethora of injuries combined with the Bills' preference to lean on the running game makes Watkins a hit-or-miss player, even if he remains injury free the rest of this season.
Bruce Hammond: Not a lot needs to be said about Dez Bryant as long as his foot holds up. He's pretty universally considered an elite receiver and should certainly be in the starting lineup of any fantasy team.
DeSean Jackson has always depended on deep speed and timing with his quarterback to have success. It is possible his hamstring could continue to be a recurring issue all season, and it remains to be seen whether interception-prone Kirk Cousins will be able to get Jackson the ball with much consistency even if he does stay healthy. I would not view Jackson as an every-week starter, but take a wait and see approach for a game or two, and then consider him more of a match up play. This of course depends on the quality of other receiver options on your roster, but I just don't see Jackson as a slam dunk must start receiver unless you're weak at the position.
Sammy Watkins has talent to have a terrific second half of the season, but I'm skeptical that Tyrod Taylor will get him sufficient targets to make him a weekly fantasy starter. Taylor seems to be content to take what the defense gives him and spread the wealth. Watkins is likely to have a couple big games but also some yawners down the stretch.
I think Brandon LaFell is being a bit underrated by the fantasy community right now. He was 74-953-seven last season and he'll be targeted plenty by Tom Brady in an offense that is on fire this year. Week 7 was a hot mess for LaFell as he dropped a number of balls, but it was encouraging to see him get eight targets in his first game back even though he didn't do much with them. I think now that the rust is knocked off he'll be fine. Unless my roster is particularly strong at receiver I'd have a hard time keeping LaFell on my bench while the Patriots are piling up big yards and points.
Mark Wimer: I agree 100% with Matt on Bryant and Watkins as far as their desirability. Those are my top two guys from the list of four.
On Watkins, I think that once Tyrod Taylor gets back in the game, hopefully after this bye week, and given that Harvin looks like his hip injury has sapped his NFL potential, and perhaps even ended his career, Watkins will put up numbers on the WR2-WR3 cusp consistently and has WR one upside from time to time. I like him even a little more than Matt going forwards.
Regarding DeSean Jackson—I don't think the Washington passing game as likely to be constituted for the rest of the year supplies enough deep balls to Jackson to maximize his potential—he'll be frustratingly inconsistent, so if you are willing/able to eat some poor outings in return for some big games, then perhaps Jackson is your guy, but personally I prefer a higher-volume, sure-bet type guy like Bryant over a boom-or-buster like Jackson. Jackson would be a bye-week stand-in for me going forwards, or someone to play when the matchup is particularly favorable for him.
LaFell is likely behind Gronkowski, Edelman and Amendola for looks once he gets back in the game, and may be behind Dion Lewis as well—there won't be enough action for him to be a fantasy force in the second half of the season in my opinion.
Dave Larkin: The potency of the offense has been sucked out, plain and simple. Even on limited touches this season, you could see the dimension Arian Foster added to the offense. Without him, we are likely to see an uptick in Brian Hoyer's passing attempts—as if they haven't been high enough already—and as a downstream effect of that more targets for his receivers and tight ends. I don't believe the offense will become a wasteland by any means; the threat of DeAndre Hopkins alone—and his incredible ability at the catch point—will mean the offense will be viable, but not a unit you can trust, especially against better defenses. Speaking of defense, the Houston defense has been abysmal and seems almost to have mailed it in, knowing that the offense simply isn't providing a platform for them to exploit their talents.
Jeff Pasquino: Chris Polk and Alfred Blue have been given shots to replace Foster before, and they failed miserably. I think both are fool's gold waiver wire pickups this week. The Texans are going to throw 75% of the time with a weak defense and Nate Washington back as the WR2. I would rather add Washington and Hoyer than either Texan backup tailback.
Matt Waldman: Houston is a garbage time situation for fantasy owners. It lowers the bar of expectations for the passing game because the ground game is a match-up situation for fantasy owners. Tennessee is fine match-up this week, but Cincinnati and New York aren't as kind the next two. New England in Week 14 isn't all the great either. I would not forget about Blue or Polk in Weeks 15-16 against Indianapolis and Tennessee, especially if you have a great back on a playoff team who may earn some rest when you need him most.
Jason Wood: The Texans were already a disaster, and Foster's injury is only going to send this AFC South team further into the depths of despair. Blue is not a good player. Period. Combine the lack of a run game with a sieve of a defense (how did THAT happen?), and you've got a situation where Brian Hoyer has absolutely no choice but to be a volume passer. He won't be that effective on a per attempt basis, but he'll get enough raw snaps to keep Nuke Hopkins atop the receiver ranks.
Andy Hicks: Like Jason said the Texans were hardly a picture of paradise before the injury to Arian Foster. Add in the Ryan Mallett farce and this team needs to think about 2016. If only though they weren't in this year's worst division and still in contention for a playoff spot. While there's hope we could see players lifting their average games to a fantasy relevant level. If the Texans can beat the Titans this week then we may get something out of these players yet. They have three divisional games to finish the year and if they can pinch one against the Saints or Bills they could amazingly still have something to play for in December. If however they lose to Tennessee this week then I think the drop in production will be rapid and only DeAndre Hopkins rosterable. Alfred Blue would be the only other guy who should enter consideration, but we are just as likely to see an interim coach here which could affect everything further.
Stephen Holloway: Foster's injury significantly impacts the Texans' offense negatively. They lose their most explosive running back, by far. I expect that they will continue to try to keep the offense balanced, but have much less success running the ball and therefore make it easier for opposing defenses to focus on Hopkins and limit his production.
Bruce Hammond: Since Foster has already been out some last year and this one before the Achilles tear, we had a chance to see how it would go. The running game and offense as a whole will be fairly poor, Hoyer will be forced into too many obvious passing situations, and he is not good enough to continually be faced with that, so he will be sacked and intercepted more than average. They will lose to good teams, have a 50-50 or so chance against bad teams. They will mix in Blue and Polk and a bit of Grimes and may or may not settle on anyone the rest of the way, and none will be worth much for fantasy. Aside from Hopkins, who will continue to pile up targets and stats, no pass catcher will be anything more than a spot start. Tough times ahead for the Texans.
Mark Wimer: I'm with Dave on the Texans' offense—look for even more passing from Hoyer with just enough runs from Blue and Polk to keep opposing defenses from going with the nickel or dime on every down. Hoyer and the passing game featuring Hopkins stays startable in fantasy terms—Blue and Polk probably dilute each other's value enough to make them unappealing to fantasy owners.
Orleans Darkwa—anything to see here?
Dave Larkin: Definitely something to see. The no-nonsense running style we saw from Darkwa on limited touches bodes well for the future; Tom Coughlin loves a downhill mentality in his backs, and Andre Williams has so far been unable to get a consistent load of carries. Darkwa could be that player for the Giants offense that desperately needs some semblance of a rushing attack to keep defenses honest. The distribution of touches could be what frustrates fantasy owners, however. How often Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings get worked into the rotation will affect Darkwa, who may also be relying on favorable game scripts to accumulate yards. Unless there is an injury in this backfield, the best play is to stay away.
Jeff Pasquino: Nothing to see here, move along. Darkwa just had a hot hand and pushed the pile for a score in Week 7. Do not hold your breath that it will happen again.
Matt Waldman: I never outright dismiss any runner who has flashed during the preseason for two years and hung around a roster: Joique Bell, Brandon Oliver, Fred Jackson, Priest Holmes, Khiry Robinson, Isaiah Crowell, and Chris Ivory were often dismissed too early. Although I don't think he's on this level, there is a little to see with Darkwa. The former Tulane back is a good pass receiver with excellent footwork and vision. He often makes the first man miss and he has patience to set up blocks. We also saw a 41-yard series for Darkwa this weekend where he carried the ball down the field for the Giants and broke tackles or carried defenders for extra yards. He's a smart, determined, small-school back who has hung around for a few years. I wouldn't consider him over any of the backs discussed in this week's Roundtable just yet, but he's worth monitoring or adding in larger leagues where the waiver wire is barren and the need for a back is huge.
Jason Wood: Darkwa is part of a four-man committee that—on a combined basis—aren't very good at running the ball. If anything Darkwa's touches this week only serve to re-emphasize how poorly situated the Giants are at the running back position. If by some freak chance you're in a league where Rashad Jennings or Shane Vereen still have marginal value, do yourself a favor and trade them while you can. I would take anything for those two—even an every week kicker that's already had their bye. Darkwa is a mild curiosity, not a season changer.
Andy Hicks: Orleans Darkwa had one great drive. Like Matt said though the more relevant thing here is the preseason performance and ability to hang onto a roster spot. The Giants are hardly blessed with talented runners. Shane Vereen is barely a runner, Andre Williams is poor, and Rashad Jennings at age 30 looks like and is running like a guy past his best. Plain and simple, the opportunity is there, despite the look of a crowded backfield in New York. I would be happy to grab him now and wait and see how this situation plays out over the next couple of weeks if I had the roster spot. If he can continue to run hard and better than his rivals he could easily edge his carry number up week by week. With the Giants in a good position in their division he could develop into a starter come the fantasy playoffs. You have to take a shot on guys like this before they have a huge game. Dismissing him like Jeff and Jason have is not the direction I would go in. He has value that could easily move rapidly north or south in the next few weeks. If he moves south he is easily cuttable. North is definitely possible and for the price you will pay he is worth that chance.
Stephen Holloway: The Giants have several effective running backs and remain a passing-focused offense, so there is no value in any particular running back, including Darkwa for this season.
Bruce Hammond: Orleans Darkwa is a dart throw, but at least a dart throw who hasn't yet failed, on a team where the running back competition has underwhelmed. He ran well in preseason, and last week Coach Coughlin made a point of involving him when it mattered (as opposed to just getting in the game in garbage time, or as an injury fill in). He did well on his eight carries, and I expect him now to get a more extended audition. Every year there are a few players who come out of nowhere to succeed, and it begins with opportunity. As long as fantasy owners keep expectations low, it's fine to be open to the possibility he could surprise. I've taken a flier on him this week in four leagues myself.
Mark Wimer: The four-headed monster at running back in New York is something to avoid right now unless you have room on your bench for some speculation in Darkwa—until we get some clarity on who has what role there in the second half of the season I am avoiding starting New York running backs.
Is Alfred Morris droppable in redraft leagues? (How about dynasty leagues?)
Dave Larkin: In redraft leagues I think it is now safe to drop Morris. He is a player who depends on a particular type of game script to thrive; if the Washington are trailing and in pass-happy mode, Morris is essentially sidelined. His low snap counts in recent outings are not encouraging for his prospects, and it appears the team likes what they have in the young tandem of Matt Jones and Chris Thompson. Morris is a commodity you should hold in dynasty leagues, if only because he is still 26 years old and a free agent after this season. A change of scenery could suit him.
Jeff Pasquino: Droppable? Probably not. Benchable? Certainly, especially in PPR leagues. The offense is just not consistent enough for a two-down back to hammer the ball between the tackles. Washington had to be in major comeback mode last week and that minimized Morris' value, which is likely to happen any given week. When a back is so game-script dependent, it makes it very hard to rely on his production.
Matt Waldman: In this case I agree with Pasquino. Morris is not droppable, but he is benchable. No way is Morris droppable in dynasty leagues. He still has plenty left and he'll wind up with a team that will value his services as a committee back that can carry the offense's ground game if the lead back gets hurt.
Jason Wood: He is absolutely droppable! He's a part-time player on an inept offense. Matt Jones has looked better when he's healthy. Even if you assume Morris and Jones split touches the rest of the way, neither will have enough value to justify starting in anything other than a bye-week fill-in situation. In the preseason I worried that Morris wouldn't fit well in Gruden's power blocking scheme—and we've seen nothing to change my view. He's a square peg in a round hole, playing on a team that has a younger, more explosive round peg that's a perfect fit.
Andy Hicks: I think Matt summed up the Alfred Morris situation perfectly and while Dave was right to say that Morris needs the right game script to be successful, his conclusion that he can be dropped from redrafts is incorrect. Morris is someone to keep an eye on and play in the right matchup. We also need to be careful about the rookie, too. Matt Jones has had one good game. His other five games have been ordinary, statistically. Where Morris ends up next year will determine his viability in dynasty leagues, but he has definite value and if he goes to a team that knows how to use him will be very valuable.
Stephen Holloway: I would not yet drop Morris, but his usage over the past three games definitely would keep him on my bench for the time being. In those three games, he has managed only 25 carries for 41 yards and remains lightly used in the passing game. It's not as if Matt Jones has taken over as he has had only 27 carries for 60 yards rushing. I would hold Morris, but keep him on the bench.
Bruce Hammond: I talked about him a few weeks ago in a Dynasty Movement article and it is just becoming clearer. Morris lost something last year, and has not come close to regaining it. The guy who was running over people in 2012 and 2013 looks to be long gone, and he now looks slow and tentative. Matt Jones is the future, Morris is the past, and he is likely to be gone from Washington when his contract expires at the end of this season. I'd say he is probably droppable in both redraft and dynasty unless RB strength on your roster is particularly bad.
Mark Wimer: As much as it pains me to say it as a Morris owner in more than one dynasty league—it's probably time to cut bait on Morris if you can find someone else to plug into his spot and afford the cap hit. He simply isn't doing enough with his chances to hold off the younger guys on the roster. Washington is rebuilding this year and Morris won't be in their future plans—he likely continues to see his touches taper off to nil during the second half of this season. I've already cut him in any redraft leagues where I owned him.
Are all Miami Dolphins (especially Tannehill and Miller) candidates to sell high after their big game against the Texans, or will that offense continue to excel under Dan Campbell?
Dave Larkin: I think the caliber of opponents has to be taken into account when we look at the Dolphins' last two games; Tennessee and Houston are not exactly world-beaters. However, there is no doubt this offense is trending up. Dan Campbell should continue to lean on Lamar Miller, who has proved what the Dolphins were missing when they refused to feed him earlier in the year. Tannehill is a player I would hold as well; the Dolphins have gone to more plays under center for the quarterback, who is better able to execute play fakes and seems more comfortable. I don't expect the Dolphins to score 35+ points on a regular basis, but they will certainly be viable.
Jeff Pasquino: No, I am a buyer. Miami shook it all up on the bye week, changing both the cost and the philosophy in that locker room. Miami is playing aggressive and they are being productive as a result. I see it staying that way, but this week is a big test against the Patriots.
Matt Waldman: I believe we'll continue to see a mixed bag from Miami's offense. I was told by a consultant with the league who works with multiple NFL players that the Dolphins offense was too complex in language and lacked clarity. One of the points made: Miami had more specific depths for certain routes of the same type than most teams and there was no specific language to clearly distinguish one depth from the other. Another point shared was that Tannehill was a 'robot', which had both a good and bad connotation. The good? Tannehill has an excellent memory for the inordinately complex jargon of the offense and he knows exactly what to do based on the theory of the scheme.
The bad? The rest of the team doesn't play as fast as it should because not everyone is a robot capable of processing the complex scheme calls as its QB. This was also happening on defense, but Dan Campbell told the media that he met with the coaching staff to make changes so the players could play faster. I imagine the same is the case with the offense, but I haven't heard specifically if that adjustment has been made.
What I do know is that Tannehill has always been a little robotic when the scheme breaks down. I anticipate that the offense will be better as a whole, especially with greater emphasis on the ground game. Miller has always been a fine prospect and I expect the Dolphins defense to play better, which should give Miller more opportunities. Feed a back like Miller the ball and he'll break a play wide-open. We saw it a number of times early in the game last week.
I'd consider selling Tannehill high because I don't think he'll ever be a consistent top-five fantasy QB, but it's unlikely that you'll get enough in return to pull the trigger. Miami has a good schedule for the fantasy playoffs, so unless you get a deal that you can't believe, I wouldn't sell.
Jason Wood: There's no way you're going to get fair value for the Dolphins right now, outside of perhaps Lamar Miller. If you were able to stay relevant in your league while the Dolphins struggled, now is the time to enjoy your patience. The change of coaches has unlocked the potential we all saw in this unit from the get go. Tannehill was a top-10 fantasy quarterback last year, and he will be again this year. I expect he'll put up Top 7-eight numbers the rest of the way. Miller is even more exciting. For a few weeks he seemed like a waste of a second round pick...now he might be your season's fantasy savior.
Andy Hicks: Ride the wave in Miami is all I can say. We'll get a truer picture of whether Dan Campbell is all flash and no substance against the Patriots, but to me the Dolphins always had talent it was just a matter of using it correctly and waiting for cohesion on both sides of the ball. The firing of Joe Philbin seems to be have been the match that lit the flame. Against the Titans and Texans, Miami could come out and punch them both out and look like Muhammed Ali. We'll see once the Patriots land one on their jaw how they react. If they come out of the Patriots game with even a point's loss then the signs are good.
Stephen Holloway: I agree with Dave about considering the quality of opponent that the Dolphins have played the last two weeks, but Lamar Miller has shown such explosiveness that he has to remain in lineups with an excellent outlook. His production the past two games has essentially come from the first half alone. His production also impacts the passing game, so Tannehill should continue to be productive down the stretch.
Bruce Hammond: Whether it was Joe Philbin's fault or something else, the early season Dolphins were not who I expected to see come out of the gate. I may look like a big dummy in a month for taking this position, but I think the Dolphins we are seeing now are a lot closer to who they really are than the team we saw the first month of the season. No, I wouldn't be selling high. I'd ride these players and hope for more to come.
Mark Wimer: If believing in the Dolphins' offense going forwards makes you a big dummy, then hand me a dunce cap and I'll go stand in the corner with Dave! I couldn't understand why the Dolphins weren't using Miller's obvious talents to begin the year, and the passing schemes were mystifying. Now we are seeing what the wide and deep talent base on that offense can do—this team will open some eyes nationally tonight beginning 8:30 P.M. Eastern Time, so if you can pry Miller or Landry away from their current owners do so before kickoff if possible.
Has Kirk Cousins turned the corner in Jay Gruden's offense, or was the game against the Buccaneers an anomaly?
Dave Larkin: Kirk Cousins has shown us what he is; a low-end starter or a high-end backup quarterback. He will produce games like the Tampa Bay performance where things click, he sees the field well and executes the play as it is drawn up. However, he will also have duds from time to time that force Washington fans and brass to reconsider their faith in him. The Buccaneers have been a particularly poor defense this season, so I would categorize Cousins' display against them as expected and therefore, an anomaly for him as a player.
Jeff Pasquino: Interesting question. Cousins is capable to produce solid numbers and has QB1 upside in the right matchups, but I would not count on it every week. I would label him as a QB2 with QB1 upside, but predicting when that QB1 performance will come is anyone's best guess.
Matt Waldman: It's an anomaly. Cousins has always been a QB capable of a big week, a horrible week, and two halves that are a combination of both. He has not turned a corner. Look at Tampa's defense this year. It allowed Marcus Mariota to throw four touchdowns in his first NFL start. Drew Brees and a bunch of old vets and bench jockeys at wide receiver still managed 255 yards and a score and near the same for Ryan Mallett, whose touch as a thrower is about as deft as his last name.
Once we got to passing offenses that actually had capable receivers and quarterbacks with a ground game to boot, we saw Cam Newton and Blake Bortles have multiple touchdowns against them. I'm not buying Cousins any more than before. He may be screaming at reporters after that game, "Do you like that?!" Do you like that?!" (And why yes, I did like one half of good football from a player who generally tries too hard to throw the ball with defenders at his feet when his arm can't support that target and winds up delivering boneheaded interceptions). But I'm not buying him as a "thing" in fantasy football.
Will I settle for him if I was desperate for a good match-up play and wound up with Cousins? Yes. There's enough surrounding talent that he's capable of multiple touchdown weeks. But if you get stiff penalties for interceptions, I'd keep an eye on the waiver wire or other rosters for openings to negotiate for better.
Jason Wood: Cousins hasn't turned the corner, he's a marginally effective NFL starter that will need a perfect game script, a bad defense and a bit of luck to be relevant in any given week.
Andy Hicks: Kirk Cousins is definitely better than last year when his implosion was horrific. That performance in 2014 still has to linger though and it will take a while before he can be trusted. He is an emergency starter only and while others will be tempted I still see four games where he threw two interceptions this year and four games under 220 passing yards. The game against the Washington team was the first one this year with multiple passing touchdowns and I'm still waiting for further evidence to prove this wasn't an anomaly.
Stephen Holloway: I agree with Andy that Cousins has improved from last year, but I still would not trust him on a week-to-week basis. He remains up and down, witnessed by the fact that he has four games with two interceptions and only two games with over 300 yards passing.
Bruce Hammond: While 33-40-317 with three TD and 0 INT is encouraging it needs to be taken with a grain of salt since it was at home against Tampa Bay. Cousins is still the same guy who had 196 yards on 43 pass attempts the previous week against the Jets, and two TD / four INT combined the previous two weeks against Atlanta and the Jets. He'll have a good game now and then, but more often than not he'll be the Kirk Cousins we've seen in 2014 and 2015—an inconsistent error prone backup quality quarterback who is starting because there is no starter quality quarterback on the roster.
Mark Wimer: Kirk Cousins is still learning to be a starting quarterback in this league—he's played in 21 contests, or about one-and-a-third NFL seasons' worth of appearances. Some days he'll look like the error-prone guy who needs help (actually, he just needs more experience), while others he'll border on greatness. Just don't start him against top ten pass defenses and you'll likely get adequate results—he's a guy I might trade to acquire in dynasty leagues if the price isn't too steep. If he continues to improve this year, look out for him in 2016.
That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.