This week, we'll begin our panel discussion with your contrarian takes. Next, our staff selects one of three topics from the grab bag that's focused on patience plays in re-draft, dynasty, and developmental leagues. And to end our roundtable, we'll our thoughts on big names to build around or sell to the highest bidder.
Matt Waldman: Consider the players grouped in each bullet point as a fantasy owner in need of talent for the rest of the season.
- Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, or Ty Montgomery
- Bilal Powell or Isaiah Crowell
- Calvin Ridley or Julio Jones
- Alvin Kamara or Mark Ingram II
Select one from each bullet above as the player you'd prefer for the remainder of the year.
Adam Harstad: Is both an option for Kamara and Ingram?
Harstad: Too bad, because the real answer is both.
I wrote four years ago that Sean Payton ran the best offense in NFL history at producing fantasy points for running backs in PPR leagues, in part because no team has ever thrown to its running backs with such regularity. (It's pretty good in standard scoring, too, for what it's worth.)
The four years since have only reinforced that point. Payton and Brees have been with the Saints for twelve full seasons now, and New Orleans owns eight of the top sixteen fantasy performances by an RB corps during that span, including last year's magnum opus where they were the most productive fantasy backfield we've ever seen.
When the pie is that massive, it doesn't matter that it's getting split between two players. To wit: after Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals last year, Alvin Kamara was the No.3 fantasy running back in both standard and PPR scoring. Mark Ingram II... was No.4. Each Saints RB scored more points than anyone whose last name wasn't "Gurley" or "Bell".
So yeah, I absolutely want both Saints RBs right now, and I'll absolutely start them both every single week going forward. (In fact, I'm only in three fantasy leagues this season, but Kamara and Ingram are my top two running backs in two of them.) We've seen this offense produce two fantasy RB1s before, and I think we're going to see it again.
Waldman: Yes, Adam, the real answer is both. Many of our readers didn't draft both and can't get both. However, they might get one of them, which is why the question was phrased as such. Cancel that mead...dilly-dilly (Still, thanks for playing...).
Jason Wood: As Adam detailed, both are highly valuable assets right now and are must starts. Since you asked for a choice...
Waldman: Thank you, Wood...
Wood: ...it would be Kamara. Kamara is a top-5 fantasy running back the rest of the way, whereas Ingram probably slots into the top 10 or top 15, at worst.
Daniel Simpkins: I’ll still take Kamara over Ingram because of the receiving ability that Kamara demonstrates. Ingram had a strong return game that really limited Kamara’s opportunity, but I doubt it will go that way every game.
Sean Settle: Despite the monster September for Kamara, the Saints have shown a loyalty to Ingram and reinserted him as the starter. He earned the touchdowns at the goal line again and was even used in passing situations. Sean Peyton said the workload was going to be similar to last season and that favors Ingram for the rest of the year.
Jeff Hasley: Even though Mark Ingram II dominated the Week 6 game against Washington, Alvin Kamara is still my choice for the best fantasy back in New Orleans for the rest of the season. Kamara has shown that he can do it all. Run, catch, and score. He's arguably a more athletic back and is capable of making big plays routine. It might be a close battle, but my gut says Kamara will come out on top.
Even though Mark Ingram II dominated the Week 6 game against Washington, Alvin Kamara is still my choice for the best fantasy back in New Orleans for the rest of the season. Kamara has shown that he can do it all. Run, catch, and score. He's arguably a more athletic back and is capable of making big plays routine. It might be a close battle, but my gut says Kamara will come out on top.
Will Grant: It's only one game, and it was the primetime game where Drew Brees set the passing record. Mark Ingram II looked like the running back to have after last Monday’s game but the reality of the New Orleans situation is that Alvin Kamara is really their best running back. With Ingram on the sidelines for the first four games of the season, Kamara saw a ton of action.
It was smart to give him a game where he didn’t have much action, especially given how easily the Saints were handling Washington. With the bye week now behind them, I expect Kamara to return to the primary back position but will lose a few carries to Ingram now that he’s available.
Mark Schofield: I have built more than a few fantasy teams — both redraft and dynasty — around Kamara. So their last outing against Washington has me on full tilt. I'm going to lean Kamara here as a bit of self-validation here, and posit that Kamara's presence as a matchup nightmare for defenses is going to make him the more valuable weapon for this Saints' offense, and therefore a better fantasy option. But I don't feel that comfortable about it right now...
Andrew Garda: This is pretty close. On the one hand, if used right, Kamara will give you both ground and receiving yards. On the other hand, one game in and Kamara's production tanked.
It's just one game, but even with Sean Payton saying it was circumstance, not a reduced role for Kamara, I'm worried.
Despite all that, I'll allow a few more gray hairs and stick with Kamara. He is just too versatile to choose Ingram over.
Waldman: For me, it's mostly about explosive plays. Kamara is more capable of huge chunks of yardage on any given play. I've always been a fan of Ingram and he's a fine runner between the tackles.
However, if I had to choose one, Kamara earns red zone touches, receptions, and he isn't slotted into a limiting role in terms of the way he's used. Because the workload should remain even, I'll give the edge to Kamara due to the big-play factor.
Andrew, what about Ridley-Jones?
Garda: Ridley has an edge on touchdowns, but the targets and yards skew so hard towards Jones that even though he can't find the end zone with a map, GPS and guide dog, I'm still Team Julio. He's going to shatter 1,000 yards this year and Ridley is banged up — and a rookie, so prone to inconsistency — which makes me feel good about that choice.
Schofield: Matt, This...shouldn't be a question.
Waldman: I know, but let me hear you out as to why...
Schofield: I understand the #NeverJulio movement, from the aspect that Julio cannot seem to get into the end zone. But Julio has 40 more targets than Ridley this season, and yes, Ridley has 6 touchdowns to Julio's 0, but just tells a portion of the story. If Julio — the better receiver — is going to be fed targets at a nearly 2.5 to 1 rate, he's the better option as the season progresses.
Waldman: I agree with your logic. At the same time, I can see an argument where one might see Jones' production dip as Ridley's rises. I'm on your side, but I occasionally like to slip in choices that elicit a...
Schofield: ...What kind of medication are you on?
Waldman: Yes, because we're all prone to those moments as we make decisions and folks can look at results less critically than they should.
Grant: It's almost silly how Julio Jones isn’t reaching the end zone this season. The reality is that can’t continue as he’s averaging over seven receptions a game and he’s still the go-to receiver on the Falcons. The key to winning is consistent play and Julio is consistent with big upside. Ridley may have more touchdowns this season, but I want Julio on my team wherever I can get him.
Waldman: It's a highly underrated state of mind.
Haseley: If you're a believer in the law of averages, Julio Jones should come around soon. As Mark noted, he has double the catches of Ridley (44 vs 22) and nearly twice the receiving yards. He's seventh in PPR rankings, despite a zero for touchdowns scored.
He may only have a few games with a touchdown this year, but he's capable of a multiple-score game any given week. Jones is my pick over the impressive standout rookie.
Settle: Julio Jones is second in the league with over 700 receiving yards to this point, albeit without a touchdown. Ridley has found success in the red zone where Julio has not, but that will not always be the case — even if his ankle injury turns out to be a minor issue. Julio always has the potential for 100-plus yards and 2 scores.
Wood: Is this really a question?
Waldman: No, I've mass-hypnotized the panel into thinking it's a question but what I'm really asking is if you Jones to Vikings-era Randy Moss so I can make all of you look foolish for supporting Julio. Actually, the reason I asked this is that their actual production that converts to fantasy points begs the question.
After six weeks of games, Calvin Ridley is the No.10 fantasy receiver in standard leagues and Jones is No.11.
Wood: Julio Jones has more than 1,600 yards over his last 16 games. He's also scored once over that span. Look at Jones. His size, speed, build, and playing style all tell us the touchdown production is a massive statistical fluke. Ridley is off to a terrific start as a rookie, but he's got a long way to stand up to Jones in a head-to-head bake-off.
Simpkins: Give me Julio Jones over Ridley. I know, I know, Jones hasn’t scored a touchdown in a really long time, but that’s never really been his appeal. His high reception totals and yardage is what I count on to score fantasy points.
Waldman: And Daniel's point is the one I agree with the most about Jones. Arguing the point that Jones' lack of touchdowns will turn around isn't one I value a lot because Jones had eight touchdowns in 2015 and only nine from 2016 to present.
I count on Jones for yards and catches. While not a popular opinion, Jones is not really good in the red zone. He looks pretty leaping high in pre-game warmups in the red zone with no one around him.
However, His timing and body control on red zone fades isn't consistent. The final attempt against the Eagles in the opener was more on Jones than Ryan. You don't lean back for that kind of target; you attack it by jumping towards it.
Despite the criticism of Jones' game, I agree that Jones is the guy I want ahead of Ridley by a wide margin.
Settle: This is a case of what your team needs. Powell has been the more consistent back in regard to yards per carry, but Crowell has gotten the majority of work around the goal line and has more touchdowns. With that said, I would prefer the consistency of Powell as the touchdowns will come eventually. Crowell has two big games that skewed his numbers but also has a game where he rushed four times for zero yards. Powell is the safer play between the two running backs.
Waldman: I have to point out that Crowell and Powell were virtually even in goal-line touches before the Colts game. Their touches were also a near 50-50 split in all quarters but the second. They're as close to a 50-50 committee as we have in the NFL.
Schofield: Crowell is the choice here. Watching his game against Denver what stands out is his vision as a ball-carrier. He was quick with his eyes and quick with his feet, which led to some smart decisions on cuts and reads in the running game. A performance like that is hard to overlook.
Simpkins: I’ve always liked Crowell better than Powell and wish that he would have gotten a chance to be the true feature back in both Cleveland and New York. Even splitting the load fairly evenly with Powell, I prefer Crowell because he’s more of a big play threat.
Haseley: I'll take a gamble with Isaiah Crowell as my top Jets back for the rest of the season. Crowell has an impressive 6.1 yards per carry compared to Bilal Powell's 4.3. Crowell also has 5 touchdowns, to Powell's goose egg. That's enough for me to sway towards Crowell in this battle, plus he has a 200-yard rushing game. All of the positives are swinging in his direction.
Wood: Crowell has done everything the Jets, or his fantasy owners, could've hoped for save for staying 100 percent healthy. I'd happily throw out trade offers for Crowell right now as I think he'll outproduce Powell in two out of every three games.
Grant: I have never been a Powell fan, and Crowell’s monster performance against Denver will be hard to ignore for some time. He lost touches to Powell this weekend against Indianapolis, but Powell’s performance was extremely average. Crowell is the better choice if only because of his performance against the Broncos and the possibility that if he gets hot, the Jets will continue to ride him.
Garda: I feel uneasy with choosing one guy here because the Jets are leaning on Powell more for carries, but Crowell has shown he can have bigger days more frequently. And really the difference in carries so far is all of five (Powell carrying the ball 75 times to Crowell's 70). Add the lack of touchdowns for Powell on the ground, and I'll go with Crowell.
Waldman: Powell is a sneaky-good option but as Mark noted, Crowell offers more big-play ability in an offense that's feeding them almost evenly across the board. My only concern is Crowell's ankle injury. While he had some good runs last week, will he be playing on an injury that deteriorates his performances gradually to the point that he's useless? Or, will the injury linger and put a lower ceiling on his potential longer than it's worth having him in a fantasy lineup?
I'd still take a chance on Crowell but I'm a little less enthusiastic than I was a week ago. Let's wrap this up with the Packers backfield.
Simpkins: This selection is difficult because none of them are earning at least 10 carries from game to game. I believe most in Jamaal Williams as a talent, but even talent needs the opportunity to thrive. If the Packers would commit to getting Williams into a rhythm, I think they would have much better results with their run game. It just doesn’t seem to be a priority for them.
Settle: The Green Bay backfield has been a volatile situation for a long time and their success as a team has always hinged on Aaron Rodgers. There is really no one I would prefer to have on this list, but Aaron Jones looks to be the best bet.
Every running back has been sitting in the 6-10 touch range and have not really found a lot of success. Jones had the biggest game against Buffalo with 11 carries and 65 yards. The 11 carries rank third this season for all three backs and the yardage is a season high. Jamaal Williams led the team to start but has faded lately, and Montgomery struggles to stay healthy.
Wood: As my colleagues have noted, this is an uninspiring trio right now. I'm still riding with Jones because he has the skill set to be a three-down back, which neither Williams nor Montgomery are suited for. However, Jones clearly has more to prove to his coaches. Jones' running instincts aren't in question, his coaches want to see him protect the football, protect his quarterback, and know the playbook. Since I think he's capable of working his way out of the coaches' doghouse, he's the only one of this trio I'd stash if my roster size permitted.
Waldman: I slightly preferred Williams to Aaron Jones when I studied their college tape but there's no doubt Jones' big-play ability and initial burst enamors coaches. If Williams were just a step...maybe even a half-step quicker, he'd be the lead back hands-down because he's a good all-around football player.
Unfortunately, Mike McCarthy reminds me of a Kevin the accountant in The Office when Darryl and Toby are trying to sell him Girl Scout cookies and he can't decide who to commit to. As I told Twitter tonight, I'm waiting for McCarthy to ask Jones for a pony ride.
After watching Jones have a good start running the ball and then drop a pass on Monday night, I'm thinking McCarthy will stick with a committee. If I'm going super-safe in terms of weekly points, I'm rolling with Williams because he's the trusted blocker and finisher in the fourth quarter. He also catches the ball with greater consistency. If I'm rolling upside, Jones is the option.
Haseley: My pick is Williams, but I don't really like any of the Packers backs that much. It's a crapshoot to determine who will have the better game, and even then it may not be a performance worthy of your starting lineup. Green Bay is a passing team as evidenced by their 12 passing touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns. Williams may be the one who ekes out a score any given week and he has shown that he can handle more carries if necessary.
Grant: don’t really feel like any of them are going to be the difference on my team. That being said, of the three of them, ones is probably the guy that I’d want going forward. He’s averaging almost six yards per carry and is just as effective as the other two in catching the ball out of the backfield.
He had a touchdown called back this weekend, and if that had counted, he would have had the most rushing touchdowns on the team. Hopefully, the Packers will feed him the ball more as the season progresses.
Schofield: As someone who spends a great deal of time covering the New England Patriots, a question like this gives me flashbacks to trying to decide each week who the focal point of the running game will be. Inevitably I have fever dreams that involve Jonas Gray. But I digress...
If forced to choose one of these players I would go with Jones. Largely for the reasons Will cited already. He's gotten the lion's share of carries since his return, including the most carries for the Packers in each of their past two games. Given these factors, that's where I would lean.
Garda: Ugh, what a mess. I want to say, Jones, because he seems to be the most effective of this group but Mike McCarthy seems to also not want to give him the lead role yet. I'm hoping that after the bye, once they've looked at the tape, they realize what he can be and feed him.
I have a fever dream of Aaron Rodgers, desperate for a working gameplan beyond himself kicks McCarthy's door opens, throws a tape of Jones' greatest hits onto his desk and says "This is what we are doing."
Waldman: Each of the players below has talent. The question for fantasy owners is how to value them.
Share your short-term and long-term views on each player.
Schofield: I think Smith is a viable option in both the short- and the long-term. Short-term, he is obviously going to take a big share of opportunities with Devonta Freeman sidelined due to injury. But in the long-term, he might take some opportunities and targets away from both Freeman and Tevin Coleman when Freeman returns to the lineup.
Over at Next Gen Stats, they are putting together a new metric "Yards Gained After Close," and Smith is the sixth-most elusive running back based on this statistic. Coleman is the third-worst.
I'm aboard the Wilson train. He fits what Adam Gase wants to do in this offense, with his ability in the short passing game on those shallow crossing routes and quick in-cuts that are a focal point of this scheme. Consider me a believer.
By contrast, I'm not buying into Williams at this point. I'd consider this outing against the Cleveland Browns more of an outlier. He has yet to see more than five targets in a single game this season, and I'll need to see more games like last Sunday before I believe he's going to produce more than the 3.8 targets, 3.25 receptions, 48 yards and 0.25 touchdowns per game he was averaging before his Week 6 outburst.
Short-term Pryor will get a boost with Quincy Enunwa sidelined due to injury. But that's just the short-term. Long term I'm staying away from Pryor because his production has been so meager with Enunwa in the lineup.
Garda: Smith is a keeper in both the short and long term. With Devonta Freeman on injured reserve, and Tevin Coleman not exactly lighting up the field when Freeman was out before, I think Smith gets more and more burn.
I'm not quite sure what to make of Wilson, to be honest, especially given his middling production for much of the year. He might have short-term Brock Osweiler related value, but long term, I'm not sold.
Williams has started to play well again, though I don't expect him to produce numbers like he did last week very often. That said, Tennessee looks like a nice matchup, though unlike the Browns maybe they will realize blitzing Philip Rivers is not a good idea.
I think the Jets offense will actually be pretty productive going forward, however, I also think Sam Darnold and OC Jeremy Bates will continue to spread the ball out. Once, I thought Pryor would be, for all intents and purposes, a tight end but 1) he started blowing his routes and 2) the tight ends started flashing a little.
He'll get some targets but short term you'll never know when the offense will pivot in a different direction. Long term, I'm not hot on him, but as Darnold gets better there could be a bigger role in year two, so he's worth keeping an eye on.
Grant: Smith should see increased playing time now that Freeman has been placed on injured reserve. He’s only seeing very limited snaps though, so at this point, he’s not much more than a flex option that you hope scored a touchdown. Going forward though, I think he pulls even with Tevin Coleman and could possibly become the lead back, especially if Coleman gets hurt. Smith’s outlook the rest of the season looks solid.
The Chicago game is an outlier for Wilson. The secondary looked incapable of making a tackle and the 100-degree heat index didn’t help in the second half when Wilson piled on his yards. On any other week, Wilson is a guy who will post four or five catches, 50-80 yards and maybe break a touchdown here or there.
Williams is also an outlier. He might have a little more upside than Wilson, but he still has major concerns due to his involvement in the offense. Williams hasn’t caught more than 3 balls in any game this season, and he’s only been targeted 23 times in his first 6 games. I need to see more consistency before I add him to my roster.
How that Quincy Enunwa is going to miss a few games, Pryor is a guy you might consider adding in the short term. He’s scored in consecutive games and has the talent and versatility to make an impact in the Jets offense each week. Enunwa’s been targeted almost twice as much as any other receiver on the team, so if Pryor can command a majority of that action, he will be a flex option with upside until Enunwa is back.
Haseley: I like both the short- and long-term status for Ito Smith. Tevin Coleman is a free agent after this year and he's likely moving on to another team. That opens the door for Smith to be a key piece in the 2019 Falcons offense in conjunction with Devonta Freeman. As for this season, now that Freeman has been placed on injured reserve, Smith will continue to see opportunities and be a focal point of the offense with Tevin Coleman. Atlanta's offense is capable of sustaining two fantasy backs and now Smith is one of those backs. He has shown a nose for the end zone with three scores on only 32 carries. His needle is definitely pointing up.
Wilson has shown the ability to make plays and be a reliable target in the Dolphins passing game. His four touchdowns lead all Dolphins players. He is not as consistent as Jarvis Landry was in the slot role, but he can be electric at times, especially after the catch. He has a place in the Dolphins receiving game for both the short and long term.
As long as Philip Rivers is with the team, he'll find receivers to make plays and score touchdowns. Rivers spreads the ball around well, making all of his receivers a fantasy option. Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams each have 16 receptions and 3 touchdowns. Mike Williams has more longevity and future potential, but Tyrell is still capable of putting up decent numbers. In the short-term, he's a borderline flex play with diminishing value long term due to the growth and development of Mike Williams.
I'm not sure there is a rosy future for Terrelle Pryor in the league. He's a capable red-zone threat, but besides that, the days of 100+ targets may be behind him.
Settle: Coleman is going to be the starter and Smith will serve a role around the goal line and in some third-down situations. He is going to be heavily touchdown dependent with Coleman receiving most of the work. Smith is going to be picked up in a lot of leagues and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed. He may fit into the long-term plans for the Falcons as a fourth-round selection, but he has some work to do to become relevant this year.
The Dolphins have too many receivers with too many of the same skill sets in the same offense. Wilson is going to battle Jakeem Grant, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills, and potentially DaVante Parker for targets all season long. The majority of his success has also come on short passes that he has broken free for long touchdowns. If he faces a better tackling team, he will struggle to find success. Wilson will find a home and a role, but it may not be with the Dolphins.
Williams is coming off a monster day against the Browns and he has the capability to do that every week. The biggest issue here is Philip Rivers actually needs to throw him the ball. Keenan Allen has not had the year everyone was predicting, and Williams should cut into his workload further if he keeps up this pace. This is a boom-bust play and he will most likely only average a WR3/flex status in most standard leagues if he plays at all.
The experiment of turning other skill players into wide receivers has not always panned out in the NFL and Pryor is no exception. The Jets offense is playing surprisingly well right now but that does not have anything to do with Pryor. Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa have played very well and the running game is what sets up everything. Enunwa is out for 3-4 weeks with a high ankle sprain and will bring about a small uptick in usage for Pryor, but it is not a long-term solution.
Simpkins: I liked Smith coming out, and though I don’t think he’s got the goods to be a true feature back, I think he’ll be the lightning to someone else’s thunder in a committee situation. Perhaps Atlanta will hang on to Freeman and let Coleman walk this offseason. I could see Smith doing just fine with Coleman’s role as soon as next year.
I’ve been late to the party on Albert Wilson. At the very beginning of the season, after Devante Parker made it apparent he was yet again not going to pan out, I thought that Danny Amendola and Kenny Stills would be the ones to absorb all the targets left behind by Jarvis Landry, but that hasn’t been the case. I’m coming around to think Wilson is the receiver that we want for fantasy purposes in Miami, both for this year and years to come. Matt Harmon has been telling us all for a long time that the talent is there. The situation just hasn’t been right until now.
I think Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams will go back and forth having big weeks throughout this season, but it will be frustrating to know which one to start. In seasons to come, I believe that the team will want to see its return on investment and Mike Williams will take over the number two role.
I just don’t think there’s enough stability in this offense to support Pryor from week to week. If anyone benefits from Quincy Enunwa’s absence, it will be the more dependable Jermaine Kearse. I’m also not a believer in Pryor long-term. I don’t see any reason that a passing offense would want to feature him as anything more than the third wide receiver. There are very few offenses where the third wideout has consistent fantasy value and I doubt those units will be clamoring to sign Pryor when he’s a free agent next year.
Wood: The Falcons could be looking at changes depending on how the season finishes and Ito hasn't been good enough to vault up the dynasty rankings. However, he has shown an ability to have a role, albeit in a committee. Near-term he's a desperation RB3/Flex option with Freeman placed on Injured Reserve. Long-term his value ranges from nil (if Freeman remains the Falcons franchise back and Tevin Coleman re-signs) to a fringe rotational fantasy starter (if Freeman never gets back to his former self and Coleman moves to another team).
The Dolphins are impossible to decipher. Just when I thought Albert Wilson was a total fluke this week, I see in his box score (I don't have him on any rosters) that he's produced well for several weeks. Is he the unexpected lead receiver instead of Kenny Stills? It's hard for me to believe, and I also can't count on Brock Osweiler repeating this week's performance versus Chicago. Wilson remains a low priority asset in redraft and dynasty formats.
I've always had a man-crush on Tyrell Williams and didn't understand why the Chargers were hellbent on bringing Mike Williams into the fold. Mike Williams has promise, but it seems Tyrell held off Mike's push and is now re-established as Philip Rivers' second-favorite target. He's a low-end WR3 in 12-team leagues this year and has marginal dynasty value as a high-quality backup that can be used as a bye-week or injury replacement.
Pryor? Hard pass.
Waldman: Wow...I'm just shocked at the complete dismissal of Pryor as a wide receiver. I don't know what you guys have watched, but last year's drops were an anomaly.
I know Washington was happy to get rid of him, but Washington is the same team with players that called Alex Smith "a real quarterback" compared to Kirk Cousins. Washington does not seem like a stable organization in many respects although I like their additions of Adrian Peterson and Paul Richardson Jr this year but, that's another subject.
Prior was on the verge of becoming a primary receiver in 2016 and the Browns and that's another team with a horrific history of letting good talent walk.
I have no doubt Josh McCown lobbied the team to bring him to New York and he overcame a difficult injury to return to the field and make plays over the middle and in the red zone. The groin injury has my finger lingering over the pause button but if it's not too serious, I'm adding him in re-draft leagues as an end-of-bench option.
I think Smith has a chance to deliver committee production long-term but as slippery as he is, Coleman has run well and they're different styles of runner so the Next Gen Stats don't quite appeal to me as a context of comparison about anything more than style.
Like Wood, I also have a thing for Williams' skills and I'm willing to ride the wave short-term — even if one of those two bombs was a play that the safety catches 50 percent of the time. I'm still in wait-and-see mode with Wilson. I like his skills but I'm not sold on teams being sold on him long-term.
The State of the Bears offense
Chicago's offense has been a fantasy boon for its past two games. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton have authored top-tier production against the Buccaneers and Dolphins. Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller have also earned big plays.
Answer the following questions about the state of the Bears offense:
- Is Trubisky a fantasy starter moving forward?
- Can Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard co-exist as fantasy starters or do you prefer one moving forward?
- Is Taylor Gabriel the Tyreek Hill in this offense and are there other receivers you'd like to have or even prefer ahead of Gabriel?
- Can Burton deliver elite TE 1 totals the rest of the season?
Let's begin with Trubisky.
Grant: My biggest issues with Trubisky so far this season have been his decision-making and his mechanics. For every throw I see that makes me think he’s going to be a legitimate quarterback, I see him force the ball into double coverage or get lazy and side-arm a pass with minimal speed on it, begging for someone to pick it off.
The last two games he has seen big fantasy production for a guy who went undrafted in a lot of leagues. I think the answer is that Trubisky is a situational starter from a fantasy perspective. Against average or bad passing defenses, he is a guy that I’d feel comfortable having as my starting quarterback. Against a good passing defense though, I’d be concerned that he will deliver zero touchdowns and two or three interceptions.
Simpkins: This summer, I wrote about why I thought Trubisky was a tremendous late-round quarterback choice in fantasy drafts. My arguments centered not so much around Trubisky as an ascendant talent, but on the fact that the supporting cast (coaching staff, scheme, skill player additions to the team, etc.) would help to make the situation much better than it had been under John Fox. Trubisky is meeting my expectations. While he’s not a set-it-and-forget-it starter, he is someone I’m regularly starting in leagues where I took a committee approach and made the choice to play the matchups.
Schofield: Three weeks ago, Matt Nagy was imploring members of the media that the Trubisky breakout was coming. It has, to the tune of nine touchdown passes over his past two games. There are two reasons why Trubisky is, in my mind, a fantasy starter moving forward.
One is his head coach. Nagy is doing a great job of putting together designs that give his quarterback some simplified reads in the passing game. In addition, Nagy is continuing to return to plays that Trubisky has missed on, often with big results. For example, last week on Chicago's opening drive Trubisky missed Anthony Miller on a deep over route on a third-down play. The play call paired that over route with double-moves on each boundary. Late in the game facing another critical third down? Nagy called the same play and Trubisky hit it for a touchdown.
That is how you instill confidence in a young QB. The other thing to watch is the deep game. Trubisky was missing on deep throws early in the year but they have maintained the aggression as a team, and he's starting to hit on these throws. He's a starter going forward to me.
Waldman: It's clear that the Bears offense is looking more like what we envisioned from Nagy. While I agree that Trubisky is a starter for the rest of the year, it bothered me how immature his decision-making is inside the extreme ends of the field. He could have easily thrown three interceptions in this game and within the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Nagy chose to down the ball and go to overtime.
Sure, 36 seconds might not be a lot of time to work 40-60 yards downfield but most good starters get that green light. Trubisky's mistakes and the fact that Chicago chose to feed Jordan Howard without a single pass in overtime in addition to kneeling-out regulation tells me that Nagy was worried about Truisky going into a death spiral. If you need to upgrade the talent on your roster and Trubisky can be a player you get in return for Patrick Mahomes in addition to a quality starter at another position, I'd take the risk if my team is a game or two from playoff elimination.
Wood: He's nowhere close to an every-week starter. Quarterback play is currently at an unprecedented level league-wide, and Trubisky is a part of a deep group of quarterbacks that make viable streaming options. He hasn't been consistent enough to displace more established assets, though.
Settle: Trubisky has played very well recently and seems to be clicking with his new group of receivers, but the Bears are going to have issues if they cannot get the run game going. The success of Trubisky is going to hinge on defenses playing the run. I would feel confident starting him in the right matchups but would lose confidence as the weather gets colder late in the season. Ride Trubisky now while he is hot or anytime he gets to play inside but come December, do not let him derail your season.
Garda: I wouldn't start him this week, facing the Patriots. But against shaky defenses — an adjective I could ascribe to both Miami and Tampa Bay — I think he's safe.
Games against the Lions, Bills, Giants, an injured Jets secondary and Mirror Mirror Universe Vikings (which who knows if they'll show up or not?) I feel Ok starting him.
If the Vikings D is playing well, the Rams are the Rams or against the Patriots, I wouldn't start him.
Hasley: I think he is. The last two games have shown us that he is capable of handling more of the team's playbook. In addition to his 9 touchdowns and 1 interception in 2 games, he also had 100 yards rushing which is extra padding for his fantasy production. The Bears pass schedule down the stretch is favorable, which bodes well for his overall production in the time of need for his owners. He's one to watch for sure and is worth a start until he cools off, especially this week versus New England.
Waldman: Where are you guys on the running back tandem of Howard and Cohen? Or, is it Cohen and Howard?
Schofield: For me, Cohen is the more viable option from a fantasy perspective going forward. From using him on wheel routes and more vertical routes to getting him involved in the red zone on screens, underneath routes and angle routes, Nagy seems to have a preference for Cohen as a matchup piece over Howard. Cohen is the preference here.
Grant: Chicago's backfield is falling squarely into the ‘thunder and lightning’ models that we’ve come to appreciate from running back committees. Howard will get more carries, and be the grinder/battering ram who will also get the short yardage carries. Cohen is the speed back, who the Bears want to get the ball out in space.
They’ll feed him tosses and sweeps or short screens and dumps out of the backfield, hoping he can make a guy miss and break a long gain. I would rather have Cohen for the upside.
Haseley: The Bears run schedule is not favorable for Jordan Howard in the coming weeks, but it's the opposite for Cohen. If I had to choose between the two, Cohen would be my choice. The Bears offense has been utilizing his speed and elusiveness in open space, which should continue for the rest of the season, give or take a few outlier games.
Settle: I still prefer Howard in the offense, especially as the weather changes and the Bears do not throw the ball as much. Howard has been the workhorse since he was drafted and will continue to be. The Bears need to feed him the ball for him to have success. Too many touches for Cohen has hurt his productivity thus far, but with colder weather coming there should be a lot more Howard to come.
Waldman: I think it's interesting that you presume the Bears won't throw as much as the year progresses, Sean. If there's a lot of wind issues, I agree. Otherwise, Matt Nagy should not be confused with John Fox. I'm rolling with Cohen, who I think could finish as a top-12 fantasy runner in PPR formats.
Wood: Nagy went out of his way to praise Jordan Howard in the preseason, helping defray the angst fantasy managers had for Howard entering the year. Our initial worries about Howard's role in Nagy's wide-open offense were put to rest. Until they weren't. It feels like those of us who bought into Nagy's promises are going to pay the price as Howard is looking a lot like a complementary piece of the offense; and one who has to have a perfect game script to product high-level RB2 value.
Simpkins: I believe the game-to-game usage is too variable to call either one a starter. Also, this offense, while much better than last year, is still not prolific enough to support more than one each week. Across my redraft leagues, I avoided this situation altogether because I knew it would be a chore to predict which weeks were Howard weeks, which were Cohen weeks, and which weeks were neither.
Waldman: Next up...Taylor Gabriel.
Simpkins: I think that’s a fair comparison, but with the caveat that Trubisky isn’t going to be able to execute quite as efficiently as Patrick Mahomes. So perhaps Baby Tyreek Hill would be a better way to put it? I still would prefer Allen Robinson over Gabriel on a week-to-week basis due to a higher floor, but I acknowledge there will be times when Gabriel will vastly outproduce Robinson.
Schofield: Nagy deserves credit for what he has gotten out of Gabriel to this point. By using him as a true receiver, on the boundaries as well as out of the slot, he has turned him into a true threat in the passing game. Given the production over the past two weeks, and how he is being used in this offense both inside and out, I think he's the Bears' WR I'm most confident in going forward...especially as it seems Trubisky's confidence in him is also rising.
Waldman: Let's wrap this up with Trey Burton. Can he deliver elite totals for the rest of the year?
Garda: I think he'll be in the ballpark, but not consistently. His better games have been too touchdown dependent. He'll be a really, really high-end TE2 with nice upside, but I don't think he's reliable TE1 material. Yet.
Schofield: This has been such a strange year for tight ends. I think Burton, due to Nagy's preference for tight ends and the number of opportunities he continues to get, is firmly at the top of the second tier of TE options this season, and as Gronkowski continues to see his production slide Burton is knocking on that door.
If nothing else, Burton is a viable option because of his red zone opportunities, including but not limited to that TE shovel pass that Nagy loves to call on the goal line. Vulturing a touchdown each week on plays like that makes him a TE1 type of player and that should continue.
Grant: I don’t know if I’d say ‘elite’ with Burton, but he’s definitely a ‘second-tier’ fantasy tight in – in the Nos.3-6 range. The Bears look to him on both short and long range passes, and they like putting him in motion to help Trubisky identify coverage and give Burton the opportunity to find the soft spots in the defense.
I like Burton’s upside and think he’s a solid fantasy tight end option. I wouldn’t take him over Zach Ertz or Travis Kelce – the top tier tight ends, but I would put him up against Evan Engram or Eric Ebron the rest of the season.
Haseley: If the offense continues to play as it has been, Burton can be a Top-0 tight end. He is already nearly at that pace if you factor in the bye week. He is becoming more comfortable in the offense and Trubisky is starting to rely on him more frequently. Both point to a more successful future in the coming weeks. On the downside, Burton has yet to exceed more than four catches in a game. His three scores have him in the place where he is. If the target shares don't increase and the scores become few and far between, he won't sniff the Top 10. His success as a fantasy tight end hinges on the effectiveness of the offense and Trubisky's ability to utilize him in scoring opportunities.
Settle: Burton is one of the few guys that should not be slowed by the weather. He has the size and ability to produce in the red zone all season long. He is one that will benefit from the run game struggling to punch it in. Burton had a slow start, but I fully expect him to pick things up and continue to produce as a top tight end the rest of the season.
Wood: No. The bar for "TE1" is horrifyingly low, and Burton can certainly exceed that low threshold. But you asked if he could be an ELITE tight end. He cannot. He doesn't have the target share within the Bears offense to wiggle his way into the top-tier at the position.
Simpkins: Considering how low the bar to be a tight end one is set this season, I think it’s likely. I was admittedly skeptical when Adam Shaheen was healthy and before injuries occurred to players such as Delanie Walker and Tyler Eifert. Circumstances seem to have broken just right for Burton to deliver for fantasy general managers.