Roundtable #11

Eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics.

This week we discuss the following:

Jeremy Langford and Charcandrick West

Now that we've seen these guys for a few weeks in starting roles, how do you evaluate their long-term potential for dynasty purposes?

Andy Hicks: In determining a potential dynasty stud running back that may be underrated, I look at their draft slot, the normal starter, then yards per carry, and then a multitude of factors depending on the situation.

Jeremy Langford was taken in the fourth round this year, while Charcandrick West was an undrafted free agent in 2014.

Both Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles are over 28.

Jamaal Charles is signed for another two years, while Matt Forte is in the final year of his contract.

Langford is averaging 3.5 yards a carry, West is up at 4.1

West has three games with at least 20 carries, and a touchdown in every one of those games. The defenses were solid to very good.

Langford has two games with at least 18 carries and also has a touchdown in each of those games. The Rams defense usually is good, but the Bears were in a dominant position early.

Both have long runs as receivers. Both have similar production to date, apart from the yards per carry, and both are at least RB2s while the starter is out.

With Forte out on a week-to-week basis, Langford obviously has less value this year. West is the better starter, both this week and probably the rest of the year.

Next year is a different story. The Bears seem to be ready to move on from Matt Forte and unless he comes back and improves on his early-season numbers, the job is all for Langford if he can continue on an upward curve. The Bears have many roster issues and a high pick on a running back may not be a priority. He is in a good situation and the opportunity is there. I personally don't think he is good enough to trust as the starter, but if you have faith make a move once Matt Forte comes back.

Charcandrick West is going to have to wait for his opportunity unless he either makes further improvement this year or Jamaal Charles doesn't come back looking like his old self.

Knile Davis looked good in relief last year and now his hold on a roster spot would have to be tenuous. West has the advantage, though, of having a long run at the position with Charles gone for the year. Does he have room for improvement or is this the best that he has got?

Ultimately, though, pedigree is something I rate very highly for running backs and that means I am primarily looking at guys taken in the first three rounds of the draft. I actually prefer undrafted free agents to backs drafted in round four to seven, once they have produced. Neither of these backs make me want to grab them as future dynasty studs. To me they are just adequate guys that have short term value.

Langford has Lamar Miller dynasty upside, while West is someone I would have with a higher ceiling, but ultimately lower floor as well. Paint me into a corner and I take West. I like his upside. He has speed and good hands and if he continues to make improvement will give the Chiefs something to think about next year.

Dan Hindery: I'm much higher on Langford's long-term prospects than West's. This mid-season stretch with Forte out has felt like a test for Langford to prove he deserved the lead-back role in 2016 and beyond; he has passed with flying colors. In some ways, he is a better fit for the current Bears offense than even Forte is. He does a better job of doing the dirty work between the tackles and avoiding negative plays. With Alshon Jeffery and some other key players set to hit free agency in the near future, the Bears are best served by letting Forte move on and focusing their budget on other positions than running back. Langford has shown he has enough talent to thrive in the role. Especially considering the Bears will add Kevin White to the offense next season. With Jay Cutler, Jeffery, White, Martellus Bennett a decent offensive line and Langford, the Bears offense could be very good going forward.

West has also impressed somewhat, but his production has been more a product of the Andy Reid offense. Nearly every starting back has been able to put up impressive numbers under Reid going back more than a decade. Beyond the starters, we've seen Knile Davis thrive in short stints as the starter for Reid in Kansas City and a number of backs in Philadelphia also put up big numbers as injury replacements. Plus, Jamaal Charles is almost certainly going to be back in Kansas City next season and will regain the starting role. Charles is a special back who has averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry every single season of his career (including 5.1 YPC in 2015).

Maurile Tremblay: I've been impressed with both, but Langford looks like the better player.

Charcandrick West has been successful in the Chiefs' offense, but he's done it on volume. There is a noticeable drop-off in talent from Jamaal Charles to Charcandrick West—which is not really a knock on West. There's a noticeable drop-off in talent between Jamaal Charles and just about anyone. But the contrast between Charles and West is much greater than the contrast between Forte and Langford. West looks like a good NFL backup. Langford looks like he could be a good NFL starter. In dynasty leagues, I usually side with talent over situation; but I think Langford has a decent edge in both categories. He is talented enough that the Bears could go with him as their 2016 starter. That won't happen with West in Kansas City.

Dave Larkin: The guys make some salient points here, but the contract situations of Charles and Forte brought up by Andy is what stands out to me. With running backs, especially, you have to follow the money since the position has such a precipitous drop-off in production when it arrives. For dynasty purposes, that makes both Langford and West interesting—both can be productive on near-minimum salaries. Langford is the more intriguing back for me. Going back to his time at Michigan State, I've always appreciated his no-nonsense style. He will never be a superstar, but he is the type of back John Fox loves giving the ball to. The smart move here for the Bears is to let Forte go and move forward with Langford and a Dion Lewis-esque passing down back.

West, on the other hand, simply doesn't pop off the screen for me as much as Langford does. Andy Reid has the ability to coax production out of the most limited players at times, but at the same time it would be unwise to dismiss what West has accomplished. Again, we come back to the contract situation of Jamaal Charles, undoubtedly a face of the franchise in Kansas City, who has two years remaining on his deal. Upon his return, West should make a nice handcuff, but nothing more unless another injury occurs.

John Mamula: Charcandrick West is a stop-gap option until Jamaal Charles returns from injury next season. Jeremy Langford is auditioning to be the long-term replacement for Matt Forte moving forward. The Chiefs have built their offense around Jamaal Charles and I don't envision them moving away from him until after 1-2 more seasons. Charles is an elite talent at RB when healthy. John Fox is not tied to Matt Forte. Fox drafted Langford in the fourth round this year and I see him trying to build the Rams running game around Langford moving forward. As previously mentioned, Matt Forte is in the final year of his contract. Running back is a young man's game. The Bears will move on from Forte and hand the reigns to Langford.

Chad Parsons: Backups with injury-fueled infusions as the starter mid-season are tricky. I see dynasty owners typically overvalue their long-term status because of what we currently see. They are valued as starters and I have seen both go for first round rookie picks in recent weeks. Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles are not your average starters, they will have their jobs back when healthy. My go-to line with Langford is 'one good drill' as his prospect profile is a quality 40-time with not much else. On tape, I have seen the same thing. Langford has burst to get up to, and sustain, above-average speed. Beyond that, I have not seen lateral explosive, breaking down defenders in one-on-one situations, or quality vision between the tackles. KaDeem Carey has shown some of those qualities, but lacks even average burst and speed on an NFL scale.

Many times with mid-round draft picks like Langford, I point to the historical odds as a shot of reality. A running back like Langford has hovered in the 15-20% of turning into a fantasy starter for a season in the past 15 years. Is Langford a better bet than someone like Javorius Allen or Jay Ajayi or Karlos Williams form the 2015 class? KaDeem Carey was in a similar odds zone last year. I like to explore arbitrage trades in circumstances like these. If Karlos Williams costs around the same as Langford in a dynasty setting, I would take him. I like Williams' profile and early tape more than Langford. If I can get Javorius Allen plus another player or draft pick for Langford, sign me up.

Charcandrick West has more of the qualities I like as an under-the-radar performer. He had a stronger production profile in college, especially as a receiver, and all-around athleticism. West will go back to back-up status with Charles returning (outside of a setback) in 2016, which is the time to acquire West in the marketplace.

How do you evaluate their fantasy prospects this week (assuming Forte is out)? Langford faces the Broncos while West faces the Chargers.

Dan Hindery: In terms of Week 11, I am bullish on both. West has averaged 25 touches per game over his last three outings (24, 24, and 27 touches respectively). Very few backs in the league can currently count on such consistent usage. He also has a very favorable matchup against a San Diego defense that has given up boatloads of fantasy points to opposing running backs all year. In their last game, the Chargers defense allowed Langford to put up 142 total yards in Week 9. Langford faces a stiffer test in Week 11 going against a Denver defense that had been strong against the run until showing some vulnerabilities over the past two weeks. It's likely that these last two weeks have been an aberration for the Broncos defense (their offense has done them no favors). But even if we do respect the Broncos run defense, Langford just had a big game against another of the league's best defenses on the road in St. Louis. His passing game usage gives Langford a relatively high floor and makes him mostly game-script proof, so he is a very nice option again in Week 11.

Maurile Tremblay: I like West better than Langford based on matchup. The Chargers defense is terrible right now, while the Broncos are exceptional. West is likely to get a heavier workload based on game script, and the Chargers-Chiefs game has more potential to be a high-scoring affair in general.

My only concern with West is that he may have finally reached a high enough level of production that Andy Reid will inexplicably stop featuring him in the offense.

Dave Larkin: Heading into this week, both should be trusted as high-end RB2 level plays, but both have the ability to enter RB1 territory. Langford should continue to be fed plenty of touches against a stout Denver defense; I expect John Fox to try to control the clock and limit Brock Osweiler's possessions, putting more pressure on the young quarterback. West has been a workhorse for Kansas City and has an excellent matchup against a Chargers defense that can be exploited. Of the two, I would give the slight edge to West as I can see Denver's defense having a bounce-back game.

John Mamula: For Week 11, this decision is a no-brainer. The Broncos are an elite defense this season. They have allowed the third lowest total points per game (18.7) with the sixth fewest rushing yards/per game (94.6). The Chargers have struggled on defense this season allowing the fifth most total points per game (27.7) with the sixth most rushing yards allowed /per game (122.9). The Chargers have allowed at least one rushing touchdown over the past five weeks. For Week 11, I am confident starting West and sitting Langford.

Chad Parsons: Both are strong plays in Week 11, but I like West. The Chargers are allowing more than five yards per carry on the season and big games to Jeremy Langford, Latavius Murray, and James Starks in recent weeks. While Denver is struggling on offense, Charcandrick West and Jamaal Charles are the only backs this season to hit 20 PPR points against them and West did it with 3-92-1 receiving. I approach running backs from inside out with receiving matchups and production as a bonus. With Langford, more than with West, I would be pinning my production hopes on hitting a long reception or two.

Bounce-back candidates

A number of players who were hot earlier in the season have cooled off recently.

Who do you like as bounce-back candidates to surprise people (in a good way) this week?

Dave Larkin: I trust Aaron Rodgers to bounce back. Yes, the Packers offense has resembled one of its worst incarnations ever under Rodgers the past three weeks, but every team has its struggles during a season. Remember what happened to the 2014 Panthers? They endured a torrid spell during the middle of the season but finished strong after rediscovering their identity. The Packers need a viable rushing attack to allow Rodgers to open up the play action game and not put it all on the receivers' shoulders to get open. Rodgers is an incredibly talented player whose work ethic and determination on the field will lead him back to solid play. Don't be surprised if he returns to form this week when it matters most against Minnesota.

Dan Hindery: I like Demaryius Thomas as a bounce-back candidate. It's been clear in watching the Broncos that Peyton Manning was playing bad football. He had no zip on his passes and his lack of mobility was a major issue in Gary Kubiak's offense. While Brock Osweiler may not be a great player, he almost has to be an upgrade over the 2015 version of Peyton Manning. He came into the game in Week 10 and looked to Thomas often (seven targets in less than one half). Thomas should continue to see a high volume of targets going forward with Osweiler because young quarterbacks always tend to hone in on their top receivers more than veterans. The Bears have been vulnerable against top receivers and Thomas could have a big game in Week 11.

Andy Hicks: I'm going to pick Andy Dalton. Except it won't be this week. The Cardinals are going to be a tricky matchup in Arizona on a nationally televised game, even if he was in early season form, but after that he should bounce back with a nice four game stretch against the Rams, Browns, Steelers and 49ers.

If I had to pick a guy for this week, I would choose Stefon Diggs. He has suffered from a dearth of targets in the last couple of weeks, but the Packers have allowed the following to number one receivers over the last five weeks

W10—Calvin Johnson—6 for 81
W9—Greg Olsen—8 for 80
W8—Demaryius Thomas—8 for 168
W6—Keenan Allen—14 for 157

John Mamula: Calvin Johnson will bounce back in a big way this week. Johnson has one 100+ yard game this season, Week 6 against the Chicago Bears. Most defenses have held him in check with around five receptions for 80 yards. That will not be the case with the Oakland Raiders defense this week. The Lions are home with a high game-total of 48 points. I agree with the Vegas total and can see this game as a shoot-out similar to the 37-34 game earlier this season with the Bears. The Raiders are ranked as the second worst pass defense this season allowing 293.2 passing yards per game. Johnson will go over 100+ yards and find the end zone this week.

Chad Parsons: I will second Dan's mention of Demaryius Thomas. As someone who tracks touchdown rates, it boggles my mind to see Thomas with a consistent 10% or higher career mark sitting with a solitary touchdown on 68 receptions in 2015. This after double-digit scores in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Last week from a strong matchup for Thomas to break the dry spell, but Peyton Manning happened early and often. Chicago and New England are above-average matchups for receivers the next two weeks. I hold out hope, but this could be turning into Vincent Jackson's strange 2014 with two touchdowns in 16 games as a physically dominant receiver with a strong touchdown rate track record.

Packers wide receivers

Is Davante Adams the Packers' best receiver going forward this season?

Dave Larkin: Honestly, if there is a true number one option in this passing attack, it will be Randall Cobb. The malaise around this offense is real, though, and a massive concern. It is too simplistic to say the book is out on how to defend the Packers, but it is clear that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have a great deal of soul-searching to do heading into this week's pivotal divisional game. Cobb is savvy enough with his route-running and has a good enough chemistry with his quarterback, but I can't say the same for the at times clunky athleticism displayed by Adams. Rodgers will distribute the ball to whoever breaks open, and I trust that to be Cobb—whether by pure skill or by offensive design—down the stretch.

Andy Hicks: Like Dave I have doubts that Davante Adams is going to be the guy moving forward. His 79 yards on 21 targets last week hardly set the world on fire. Randall Cobb is a more proven performer who is showing signs of moving out of a slump. After a phenomenal first three weeks Cobb had come right back to earth with 16 catches for 132 and zero touchdowns in the next four games. An increase in targets over the last two weeks has seen an improvement in stats, but although I think he is the guy moving forward his form of the first three weeks will simply be a mirage.

Maurile Tremblay: I don't think he's the best receiver, but he sure was Aaron Rodgers' favorite receiver last week. Anytime a receiver gets 21 targets in a game, we should sit up and take notice. Twenty-one targets is a fluke in the sense that he won't get 21 targets again. But it may not be a fluke in the sense of leading the team or getting double-digits. Randall Cobb has been mostly ineffective for a while now, and I don't think it's at all out of the question that Adams will supplant him as the WR1 in pretty much the same way that James Starks has supplanted Eddie Lacy as the RB1.

Chad Parsons: I think Adams is the team's best receiver. James Jones has been fading since his strong start and goes dark for most of games with tight coverage. Randall Cobb has struggled through tight coverage in recent weeks as well. While Adams got called out for being inefficient with his 20+ targets against Detroit, getting targets is not a bad thing. Plus there were a handful of plays where a different officiating crew throws the flag on the physical play at the top of Adams' routes, mostly on Detroit.

John Mamula: Yes, Davante Adams is currently the best Packers' wide receiver. Not only did Adams receive 21 targets last week but he had 11 targets the week prior against the Panthers. For fantasy football, I want the receiver that is seeing the largest amount of targets and touches in their offense. Overall, the Packers offense has taken a massive downgrade due to the injury of Jordy Nelson during the preseason. Nelson opened up the passing game for Cobb underneath. Without Nelson, defenses can focus more on stopping Cobb. I don't like the chances of the Packers offense getting back on track this week in Minnesota. The Vikings defense has been solid all season allowing the second fewest points per game (17.1). The Vikings are allowing only 228 passing yards per game. If you have other options, I would avoid all Packers this week.

Mark Sanchez and Brock Osweiler

Mark Sanchez and Brock Osweiler will get their first starts of the season (or in Osweiler's case, ever). Which quarterback has more upside potential for people who are desperate at that position this week? Which receivers of theirs, if any, can we expect to be particularly helped or hurt by the switch at QB?

Dave Larkin: Let's start with Osweiler, because he is the unknown of the two. The Kubiak offense should allow him to use his athleticism outside the pocket and find receivers with simple high-low reads and basic progressions. The Broncos will likely lean on the two-tight-end sets more often, giving newly acquired Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels more opportunities. But I don't think Osweiler will shy away from targeting Demaryius Thomas on longer developing patterns. Peyton Manning was a sitting duck in the pocket if pressure arrived, but Osweiler can extend the play and should be able to take advantage against undisciplined defenses—or, indeed, against units that blitz him.

We know what we have with Mark Sanchez—a reliable enough veteran who has a mistake in him but can run this Philadelphia offense true to its concepts. He doesn't offer a ton of upside, but the design of the offense alone makes him a higher upside play. Playing the Buccaneers' Jekyll and Hyde defense doesn't hurt either. Sanchez will often take the simpler, quick throws, so both Zach Ertz and Brent Celek should see an uptick in production as a result.

Andy Hicks: I have to side with the known commodity in Mark Sanchez. That said if Brock Osweiler can't do it after sitting on the bench for three-and-a-half years as a second-round draft pick, then he'll never do it. Osweiler has shown enough for us to realize he shouldn't tank completely, but now is his opportunity to prove he can take on a starting role in the NFL. For fantasy owners he represents a higher upside, but ultimately a lower floor as well. Mark Sanchez will make a stupid decision or three, throw a touchdown or two and keep the offense ticking over. He will be a borderline QB1, whereas Osweiler isn't likely to come out and do that straight away.

As for the beneficiaries I agree with Dave that the tight ends are the guys that should see an improvement in targets.

Maurile Tremblay: They actually both have decent upside potential. Mark Sanchez has had good games before in Chip Kelly's offense, and Osweiler is taking over what most people expected to be a high-powered passing offense this season. Peyton Manning has played poorly, but Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have both made impressive plays on their own. If Osweiler can get them the ball downfield better than Manning has been able to do, a multi-touchdown game seems eminently achievable.

If I have to pick between them for Week 11, though, I'm going with Sanchez. In his eight starts last year, he averaged 277 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. And while the Buccaneers don't have a terrible defense, they've been better against the run than against the pass, and I expect the Eagles to put the ball in the air this week. The Vegas line has the Eagles scoring around 25 points, compared to the Broncos at around 20 points. So all in all, I like Sanchez better than Osweiler.

I think it's hard to know how the distribution of targets will be affected by the switch from Bradford to Sanchez. It may not be.

In Denver, I expect the outside receivers to benefit, especially Demaryius Thomas and (if healthy) Emmanuel Sanders. Peyton Manning has had a lot of balls flutter or fade or sail on him when he's thrown deep or to the sideline. The route trees can open up more with Osweiler at quarterback, allowing Thomas and Sanders to make plays downfield—not just on bubble screens.

Chad Parsons: I side with Sanchez. While he has been good and bad (mostly bad) on tape with his Eagles starts, the volume will be high and the floor is decent. Last year 200 yards was his absolute floor, hitting at least 290 yards in about half his starts. If heavily penalized for interceptions, Sanchez comes with more pause, but I have little concern about posting quality yardage with at least a touchdown.

John Mamula: Both Mark Sanchez and Brock Osweiler have potential this week facing below average defenses. The Bucs and the Bears are both allowing 26 points per game. If I had to choose, I would go with Sanchez because of his past history in regular season games. Sanchez threw multiple touchdowns in six out of his nine games played in this offense in 2014. Jordan Matthews is the receiver that will benefit the most from the QB change. Last season with Sanchez at QB, Matthews had three 100+ yard receiving games and scored six touchdowns.

Tony Romo

Ben Roethlisberger was rusty for a game after he returned. Do we expect the same from Tony Romo in Week 11, or do we expect him to play well and elevate the fantasy prospects of his fellow Cowboys immediately?

Dave Larkin: Undoubtedly he will be able to elevate the offense; it would be hard not to be better than Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. His savvy at the line of scrimmage will be a massive boost, as he will put the Cowboys in better plays and be judicious with his shots downfield. There will have to be a bedding-in period during which Romo takes his first hits and gets used to full-speed contact again, but a veteran of his experience should be back to himself by the Thanksgiving clash against Carolina.

Andy Hicks: The Cowboys season has almost disappeared down the tubes and Tony Romo is not going to come back as if nothing happened. The Miami Dolphins shouldn't and won't let that happen. They won't be afraid of Darren McFadden and the running game. Romo will be targeted heavily by the pass rush. If Romo can survive the initial onslaught then it will be all about rhythm. The Dolphins aren't scaring anyone though and Dallas will be doing everything to protect their franchise. If Dez Bryant has his head screwed back on properly, then maybe he can lift this offense by himself, but if Dez isn't on game, then it will be irrelevant.

Maurile Tremblay: He may have some rust, but he's got a good matchup against the Dolphins, who are giving up about a half a net yard more per pass attempt than the average NFL team this season. The Vegas line has the Cowboys scoring 23.5 points this week, which is exactly what they averaged in Romo's two starts so far this season, compared to just 17 points per game without Romo. This seems like a good game for Romo to get back on track pretty quickly and produce about what we'd normally expect from him.

Chad Parsons: I expect a solid improvement over Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden, that's for sure. Dez Bryant owners cannot wait for Romo's return and Jason Witten and Darren McFadden owners should be equally as excited. I project the volume to be down, potentially in the sub-30 attempt range this week, but multiple touchdowns are in play. McFadden has been a weekly start with his sky-high floor of touches, but touchdown opportunities have been minimal for this offense without Romo. Bryant returns to WR1 land, Jason Witten is a mid-TE1, McFadden is a quality RB1, and even Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are better flex-type options if needed, all because Tony Romo is back with a boost under center.

John Mamula: I would temper my expectations with Tony Romo with his first game back. The Dolphins passing defense has been middle of the pack this season allowing 254.7 passing yards per game. The Dolphins rushing defense has regressed over the past month and they now rank as the second worst rush defense in the league allowing 135.6 rushing yards per game. This sets up to be a Darren McFadden game more than a Romo break-out. For rest of season, Romo is a massive upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden.

That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.

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