The Best of Week 8 - Footballguys

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

You guys have a ton of articles.

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

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

1. ride Adrian Peterson

Matt Bitonti's Offensive Line Rankings should be a weekly part of your Footballguys content regimen. This week, Bitonti upgraded Washington's offensive line seven spots to No.5 in the league thanks to the return of Shawn Lauvao that moves Chase Roullier back to center.

Left guard Shawn Lauvao played all the snaps last week at home against Dallas. It was his first start since he injured his calf during Week 2 against Indianapolis. Lauvao had a mixed return, allowing three pressures of quarterback Alex Smith but opening some decent holes in the rushing attack. Overall, Lauvao's return was a boost to the lineup, as it allowed usual starting center Chase Roullier to claim his natural spot, and more importantly, put Tony Bergstrom back on the bench.

The run game was improved with Lauvao in the lineup, and the line produced 130 yards on the ground on the way to the victory. Lauvao did not practice on Wednesday but he was working with trainers on the side. Lauvao should be able to make the start this week on the road against the New York Giants. Assuming Lauvao makes another start, this line grades as a top-tier unit

Matt's Verdict: Roullier's return to center should not be underestimated because he's one of the few centers in the NFL adept at pulling across the formation as a lead blocker or working to the second level of the defense on plays that force him to approach an assignment at an angle. Roullier's athletic ability allows more creativity and unpredictability for his Washington run game.

As highlighted in this week's Gut Check, Peterson has not only performed well with injuries but has also proven he can produce in the shotgun.

Peterson was once a God among running backs but without his top gear, he's been reduced to a mythic hero. He makes this cutback to beat four defenders appear much easier than it is.

Most notable about Peterson this season is that he dispelled the notion that he can't run from the shotgun. While Washington has found ways to match Peterson's style to the gun, it's not like the coaching staff didn't ask Peterson to adjust and learn.

Plus, the idea that he wasn't good in shotgun was a bit of a "take" from those who weren't giving the Vikings line enough responsibility for its failures late in Peterson's career. The Vikings originally used Jerick McKinnon as a passing-down player. So when the offense ran him on draws, delays, or other ground-oriented selections on passing downs with the team behind or the defense expecting something else, McKinnon's higher efficiency shouldn't have been a complete surprise.

Although Jeremy Sprinkle nullifies this run, Peterson's initial work at the line of scrimmage is the kind of thing that many skeptics of his shotgun-work didn't think he could do.

Fantasy Verdict: As long as the Washington defense can contain Atlanta and Tampa Bay's offenses and keep the game close for much of three quarters, Peterson has a chance to deliver top-15 fantasy production on a weekly basis.

Matt's Verdict: Don't be afraid of Peterson; I learned this years ago after his improbable quick return from an ACL tear. The line, the scheme, and the player all match up well for fantasy leagues this year.

2. Buy Low, Sell High

Sigmund Bloom is a wheeler-deal in fantasy leagues. His Buy Low, Sell High column is a must for those seeking ideas to wheel and deal.

A good example of Bloom's thinking occurred on Thursday Night's Live Audible Podcast, a listener asked me if it's time to sell Drew Brees. My answer was to keep Brees because he has an excellent schedule.

However, Bloom piggybacked my answer with a strategy worth consideration: Package Brees with another good player to acquire Aaron Rodgers. This week, Bloom explained in this week's column why you should "buy high" on Rodgers:

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Jimmy Graham, TE, GB - Rodgers was still not 100% when he outscored Patrick Mahomes II II in Weeks 5 and 6 on his way to putting up the most fantasy points of any quarterback in that two-week span. His defense isn’t keeping games low scoring, and that trend won’t change with the Rams and Patriots up in the next two weeks. We’re about to see what an unencumbered Rodgers can do this week. Graham has been showing more downfield speed and ability than he did in Seattle, averaging over 16 yards a reception on 11 catches over those two games. The bye week certainly won’t hurt his sharpness playing his reconstructed knee. We haven’t see Rodgers and Graham riff in the red zone yet, and when that happens, Graham could flirt with No.1 overall tight end numbers.

Matt's Verdict: I'm going to give you a little insider information here — Bloom and I occasionally hit each other up for advice on trades. This week, he was in negotiations in deals that involved Graham and A.J. Green. I'm not the least bit surprised that Graham wound up in this section of this feature (I occasionally find myself writing about players I'm researching for my own leagues as well).

If you have the depth to lose two worthwhile players for Rodgers, you could gain a league-winning player. How do you determine it?

My suggestion is to use Mahomes' points per game (what Bloom expects Rodgers do deliver) as the baseline and compare it to the difference between Brees and the second player you're trading away to land Rodgers. Then, add the player you'll be using in place of that second option you packaged with Brees. If that combination of a Mahomes-like Rodgers plus your second option is at least 4-6 points more per week than what you're currently getting from the two players you intend to deal, go for it.

3. Trendspotting's Dealer's Choice

It's time to revisit Ryan Hester's Trendspotting. One of the newer segments of the column is "Dealer's Choice," which Hester uses to answer reader questions. This one caught my eye.

Like we did last week, we asked Twitter for suggestions on some trends to monitor. Let's see what the followers came up with:

Commentary and Action Items

This one is a little bit less concrete than we typically discuss in the column, but there is some data available that can help form an opinion. For instance, there have been seven times this season where an Oakland running backs has seen at least five targets in a game. Jalen Richard has five of those seven. In games that Oakland has lost by more than a touchdown (four times this season), Richard has caught 9, 6, 6, and 7 passes.

It's unlikely that Richard will take Lynch's role and also keep his. But it's certainly possible that he keeps his own role (which has standalone fantasy value as is) and takes some of the early-down work that is likely to be assigned to Doug Martin. For this week, if Oakland decides to attack Indianapolis' weaknesses, Richard is the player to utilize. Indianapolis allows 7.0 receptions per game to running backs, third-most in the NFL and 73.0 receiving yards to running backs, second-most in the NFL.

Matt's Verdict: Martin has top-10 potential as a producer when he's playing to his ability. But whether he'll do so has been the biggest question about him for years.

Richard was one of my favorite lesser-known prospects from his draft class and he still plays with the intensity of an unknown, overlooked player. He and Carr have a notable connection in the short passing game. It's the check-down game, two-minute offense, and catch-up offense that are the most likely situations we'll see in Oakland, which means Richard is a strong bet for at least the production that Hester is noting.

If you need a back, Richard is a wise and cheap choice.

4. John Lee's Vegas Value Chart

Lee is one of the sharpest DFS players on our Footballguys staff. His Vegas Value Chart is a smart way to begin learning the angles of the game.

Here's how Lee summarizes the chart's intent:

Every week, the first step of your DFS homework should be to examine the opening Vegas odds on all the NFL games for that week. Through some fairly simple algebra, it is easy to derive a spreadsheet that predicts team totals for every game, thereby allowing you to develop a rudimentary gamescript to help narrow down your decisions for the week.

Once the appealing (and unappealing) games have been highlighted, it becomes easier to focus upon those games to help build your core of players for that week; the caveat, however, is that the NFL is a dynamic league and anything is subject to change from Tuesday to keep that in mind as the week progresses and always monitor player injuries, weather conditions, and potential roster moves. Let's take a look.

Lee generates a summary with the chart that rates players at their position with stars (one is usable, two is good, and three is optimal). Here are John's Three-Star options this week:


Matt's Verdict: I like the Dalton selection because the Buccaneers defense is young, injured, and inexperienced. Tampa made Mitchell Trubisky look like Patrick Mahomes II II.

We saw last night that Lamar Miller was a good choice. James Conner is a great play against a Browns offense that has given up 3, 100-yard games according to Hester's Trendspotting.

Hester also noted that while the Rams receivers don't earn a high percentage of scores, the Packers are 12th-worst in allowing scores to receivers. With Cooper Kupp still out, Robert Woods is the most likely target because Brandon Cooks has not been a strong red zone threat in New Orleans, New England, or thus far in L.A.

If I like Dalton, it's obvious that A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd follow suit. Look for Uzomah as a potential value, also.

5. Two Mark Schofield Roundtable takes on Tarik Cohen and Amari Cooper

I'm a fan of Mark. He's a friend of mine and writes for me at the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Mark knows football and he grinds his tail off in this industry. A former college quarterback at Wesleyan, Mark understands play concepts but he also has an evaluator's eye. These aren't mutually inclusive talents.

There were two responses from Mark in this week's In-season Roundtable — his thoughts on the Amari Cooper trade and Tarik Cohen as a second-half fantasy buy — that I thought displayed why his skills are worth your attention.


Matt Waldman: How do you value Cooper and Dak Prescott for the rest of the year and in dynasty leagues now that he's in Dallas? Does Cooper significantly help or hurt anyone else's value on the Cowboys' offense?

Mark Schofield: Is Cooper going to be calling the plays? Is he going to be designing the route concepts?
Because that is the biggest issue with this Cowboys offense right now. There is a schematic inconsistency with this offense that is not getting fixed with the addition of Cooper. I was a huge fan of his coming out and believe he is an incredibly well-rounded route runner. But he cannot fix this offense overnight.
As for Dak Prescott, let me add this: Will Cooper teach the quarterback how to make anticipation throws? Because that flaw of Prescott's is another thing holding this offense back right now. Even on the biggest play last week against Washington, the strip-sack that Washington turned into a touchdown, Prescott had a vertical route that he passed on because he could not make an anticipation throw.

So from the route designs, the play-calling to the play from the passer, I'm still not buying this Cowboys' offense.


Waldman: We discussed Carlos Hyde at length. If Blake Bortles plays like he did in 2017 and the line gets healthy, there's a lot of upside if Leonard Fournette isn't ready.

Nick Chubb is the 37th-ranked fantasy back despite one start in seven weeks. With Carlos Hyde gone, Chubb could thrive like fellow rookies Saquon Barkley, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, and Philip Lindsay.

Let's not forget Duke Johnson Jr Jr, who earned 1,000 yards receiving last year. The departure of Hyde could make Johnson a viable every-week fantasy option.

With Marshawn Lynch on IR, Doug Martin gets a shot to be the lead back in Oakland. He'll take over for Lynch who will miss at least eight weeks.

Marlon Mack has only played half the season but he exploded for fantasy players last weekend.

Tarik Cohen has been the No.15 back in standard leagues and No.11 in PPR formats for the past three weeks.

Which of these backs would you target as candidates for a trade if these were your choices to supplement your fantasy backfield for the second half of the year? If you wish, you may also pick one back not mentioned who is outside the top 20 in standard leagues.

Schofield: If there's a running back I'm most excited about going forward it is Tarik Cohen. I discussed him at length last week, and I'll revisit some of those ideas for this roundtable.

Cohen presents such a mismatch dilemma for opposing defenses and over the past few weeks, Matt Nagy has uncovered more and more ways to use him to stress a defense.

A prime example of this was on Mitchell Trubisky's touchdown pass to Trey Burton for a touchdown late in that game. Nagy used a Y-Iso formation out of 12 personnel, which meant the Patriots were in a 3-3-5 nickel package which is more of a base look for them instead of their 3-2-6 dime, but the Bears put Cohen in the backfield shaded to Burton's side of the field. By doing this they forced the Patriots to declare with their defense, and the personnel and formation got Cohen isolated on Elandon Roberts, arguably the Patriots' worse cover linebacker.

The throw went to Burton because the cornerback fell, but Cohen can exploit matchups like that all day long. The more and more Nagy uses formations like this, the more favorable matchups Cohen will see. I'm a buyer.

Matt's Verdict: Dak Prescott's ability to throw down the field on anything but wide-open, play-action deep routes is a question mark. His lack of anticipation has been an issue since he was at Mississippi State. I think Cooper will upgrade the passing game (and I highly recommend this article for further reading on Cooper that is one of the most comprehensive things you'll read about Cooper's part in this equation) and his production but not enough to meet fans highest expectations this year.

Y-ISO is a popular play in recent years where the offense isolates a player to one side of the field, hoping to get a one-on-one mismatch with a defender. It's often popular to match a top athlete at tight end on an overmatched defender (read here for more). Tre Burton earns this spot on on the single side of the field and Cohen is flanking Trubisky to the same side that Burton is aligned.

While not a popular idea for some, I think Cohen could be a top all-purpose back in several offenses that chose to maximize his volume. The Bears will continue to increase that volume and it wouldn't be surprising if they go all-in with him as the lead back — as good as Jordan Howard is — and deal Howard.

Good luck this week!