Roundtable Week 11

Week 11's Roundtable topics: Stretch-run buys and duds, fantasy playoff prep, Gurley, Kaepernick, and Davis.

This week, our panel of staffers will engage in an extended game of Buy/Sell, they'll look back at key moves (good and bad) from their leagues, and they'll build fantasy teams from a prescribed pool of players and explain their choices. 

Let's get to work. 

Down the stretch

12-team format, PPR scoring. Share some players you think have a chance to perform well down the stretch:

Who are you recommending? Let's begin with a QB2. 

Chad Parsons: Russell Wilson is an easy regression candidate for the rest of 2016. Wilson has hampered with a bum wheel for most of the first half and Weeks 9-10 are arguably his best two efforts of the season. The Buccaneers, Panthers, and Packers are highlight matchups on his remaining schedule and his chemistry with Jimmy Graham is blossoming.

Andy Hicks: Andy Dalton makes for a good starter in the fantasy playoffs. The return of Tyler Eifert will lift him into the QB1 bracket and matchups against Cleveland and Pittsburgh will also be beneficial.

Dave Larkin: Perhaps it is crazy to think so, but Ryan Tannehill has a chance to ride the wave the Dolphins are on and produce for fantasy owners. This team seems to have figured out their MO and it is working like a charm. Tannehill, if he avoids the big mistakes, could be a sneaky starter. 

Matt Waldman: We all know I like the Wilson suggestion, but I'm also intrigued by the Tannehill consideration. I wrote about him in this week's Gut Check because I think he's earned a lot of criticism based on poor pocket presence that I think is actually rooted in poor offensive schemes that didn't facilitate quick and clear communication with wide receivers.

Just like a quarterback can hang a receiver out to dry with a poor throw into coverage, a receiver or group of receivers that don't understand the depth of the route to run based on the defense can force the quarterback to eat the ball and often look dumbfounded as he's doing so. Adam Gase might be the first good pro coach AND offensive mind Tannehill has worked with in the NFL. I'm willing to give him more time. 

John Mamula: Eli Manning and Jameis Winston are the QBs that I have been targeting for their late season stretch runs. Check out this remaining schedule for the Giants (Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, and Philadelphia). The Giants passing attack should be in a prime spot the remainder of the season. 

During weeks 14-16, Tampa Bay plays the Saints twice and the Cowboys. All three of these games should be high scoring. If you can get past the next few weeks, Winston can pay dividends for you in the fantasy playoffs. 

Jason Wood: Tyrod Taylor. The Bills have an easy schedule remaining in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and Taylor has played well this year particularly as a runner. 

Matt Waldman: Wilson, Dalton, Tannehill, Manning, Winston, and Taylor...check. Who is the off-radar QB? A QB3 or worse worth monitoring just in case things swing the right way? 

John Mamula: As long as Colin Kaepernick keeps the starting job in San Francisco, his weekly floor is high due to his rushing stats. Over the past four weeks, Kaepernick has averaged 57 rushing yards/per game. Those 5.7 fantasy points are almost the equivalent of an additional touchdown every week.  

Matt Waldman: Mamula always ahead of the curve on my other roundtable questions here...I like it. 

Jason Wood: Carson Wentz is the obvious choice assuming we can't count Tom Brady who stands at QB26 right now b/c of his games missed...

Matt Waldman: You assumed well...

Jason Wood: Wentz has been "good" in real NFL parlance thus far in helping the Eagles to an improbable 5-4 record, but he's not delivered gaudy fantasy stats. Considering he has plus mobility and is getting increasingly comfortable in his NFL surroundings, I could see him being a viable streaming option down the stretch. 

Dave Larkin: Jared Goff would fall into this category. I am not sure if he will perform 'well' per se, but he will definitely be able to challenge defenses all over the field, unlike Case Keenum. That alone should open things up, and a few speculative deep shots to Tavon Austin are not out of the question for the young passer. 

Matt Waldman: I have doubts that Austin can get open downfield. He's not that good of route runner. But Kenny Britt and Brian Quick could be intriguing if this use of Goff isn't some reactive plan to placate organizational outsiders or impatient leadership that spends more time huffing White-Out than lawn clippings. 

Dave Larkin: What is "White-Out", Matt? 

Jason Wood: Hahahahahaha!!! 

Dave Larkin: Why is Wood laughing at me?

Matt Waldman: He's laughing at me for making an old man reference.

Andy Hicks: I'll go with a wildcard in Brock Osweiler. Matchups against San Diego, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Cincinnati aren't going to scare anyone. Even a quarterback who has looked below average to date.

Matt Waldman: Who figures into your ground attack when broaching this subject?

Andy Hicks: It's a pretty sorry group, but if you stick with Todd Gurley you might get a nice surprise. Choice matchups against the Saints, Falcons and 49ers are around the corner and although this will be a year worth forgetting about if he is on your roster, you might get a nice playoff surprise. He might be like a bottle of fantasy White-Out that looks ugly but makes the necessary corrections at just the right time. 

Matt Waldman: I'm not going to live this down this week, am I? 

Andy Hicks: No shot. 

Dave Larkin: Carlos Hyde could rekindle the fire that he had burning at the beginning of the season. The 49ers are not a good team in terms of talent, but Hyde was on a tear even when the team was down early in the season. A return to full health could see him take the reins and produce. 

John Mamula: In PPR leagues, Darren Sproles current role makes for a good value as an RB2-RB3. Over the past 3 weeks, Sproles has 26 targets. (10, 9, and 7) Those targets provide you with a safe floor.

Matt Waldman: Mamula, you snuck into my office and stole the answers to the test...

John Mamula: Kind of, Matt. I snuck in, poured White-Out on the test, and wrote my answers for you to type. 

Jason Wood: Smooth, John...

Matt Waldman: No lie. 

Jason Wood: Lamar Miller. I'm highly disappointed in Miller (RB15) thus far as he seemed perfectly suited as the new centerpiece of the Bill O'Brien offense in Houston. As long as he's healthy, Miller stands out from the RB2-RB3 crowd in terms of raw ability and opportunity. 

Chad Parsons: Theo Riddick is my RB2 choice for the second half of the season. The competition for snaps is minimal for Riddick, who has logged some of the highest snap counts in the NFL post-Ameer Abdullah's injury. Breaking down is the biggest concern for the smaller-framed Riddick, but RB1 production is well within reach.

Matt Waldman: Gurley, Hyde, Sproles, Miller, and it. Who are your RB choices off the radar, not including softballs like Rob Kelley or C.J. Prosise?

Dave Larkin: I'm staying true to Derrick Henry, who has a plum situation in Tennessee behind a great offensive line. All it would take is one injury to DeMarco Murray and the backfield would be Henry's to rule. In that situation, he would be a high-end RB2 every week. 

Jason Wood: That's a tough one. Derrick Henry is an EASY choice as Dave mentioned, but only if DeMarco Murray gets hurt, and I'm not predicting that. Among players who simply could ascend into a top role? I would lean toward Kenneth Dixon. Dixon told the press he's finally 100% healthy, and the Ravens ground game hasn't been robust this year, to say the least. I don't see what Baltimore has to risk in giving Dixon a chance to displace Terrance West atop the depth chart.  

John Mamula: Thomas Rawls will have every opportunity to shine down the stretch. He is expected to return from injury this week. The release of Christine Michael is a sign that Rawls will be a focal point in Seattle. Make sure he isn't on your waiver wire!

Andy Hicks: Does Doug Martin count?

Matt Waldman: As good as he is when healthy, he shouldn't, but he does.

Andy Hicks: Martin's two matchups against the Saints are quite tasty and the Bucs have proven they can run the ball. If I'm not allowed C.J. Prosise then I'll go with his stablemate Thomas Rawls. Christine Michael was surprisingly released allowing Rawls plenty of opportunities once he hits the field.

Chad Parsons: James Starks is an easy deep running back sleeper. Starks steps back into the lead role in Week 10 and is an easy bet for top-20 production the rest of the season. The wide receivers playing in the backfield will remain for sporadic snaps, but Starks adds stability to the position for the first time since September.

Matt Waldman: And of course, Michael is now a Packer. Does it mean he'll muck up Starks' opportunities? It's hard for me to believe he will unless Starks gets hurt again. 

Henry, Martin, Dixon, Rawls, and Starks it is...Let's move onto some WR2-WR3 candidates besides Randall Cobb or Golden Tate.

Andy Hicks: I have a feeling Doug Baldwin matches his 2015 efforts by getting a swag of touchdowns late again. This is easy to say after he got three against the Patriots, but the Seattle offense is warming up at the end of the year again and Baldwin will be the receiver of choice for the Seahawks.

Dave Larkin: Allen Robinson is a WR1 talent-wise, but mired in a poor Jacksonville offense has really affected him. The change in offensive coordinator seems to have given the team a slight boost, however. Robinson could return to his lofty heights of 2015 for the final few games. 

John Mamula: Sterling Shepard has momentum after scoring in each of the Giants past two games. As mentioned above, check out this remaining schedule for the Giants (Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, and Philadelphia). 

Jason Wood: Tyrell Williams. Williams has been remarkable when you consider his relative inexperience and the competition for touches he faced entering the season in San Diego. Yet, he's steadily improved and has become one of Philip Rivers most trustworthy targets. I could see him delivering fringe WR1 numbers over the remaining schedule. 

Matt Waldman: Baldwin, Robinson, Shepard, and Williams. Good group. And receivers outside of the top 36?

Chad Parsons: Eddie Royal and Donte Moncrief are my two favorites from outside the top-36 at wide receiver. Moncrief has played just three complete games this season and scored at least 14 PPR points in all of them. With Alshon Jeffery out for a month, an average of eight targets per game is up for grabs. Royal had 27 targets in four games Alshon Jeffery missed in 2015, plus the steady veteran was averaging more than six looks per game earlier in 2016 before his own injury (which was with Jeffery in the lineup).

Jason Wood: How about Michael Floyd?

Matt Waldman: I know I'm trying to add him in a few leagues this week...

Jason Wood: The Cardinals have been stunningly disappointing this year but Floyd showed signs of life last week and remains (in my opinion) an above average receiver who deserves the 2nd most targets on that team behind Larry Fitzgerald

John Mamula: Cameron Meredith will have an increased role due to the four-game suspension of Alshon Jeffery

Andy Hicks: I like looking for rookie receivers who are just starting to get their act together and the name Tyreek Hill keeps popping up. With 5 for 98 and a touchdown against the Colts and 10 catches for 89 yards against the Panthers, he is quickly establishing himself with Alex Smith. The matchup against the Jags was with Nick Foles at QB, so we can ignore the 3 catches for 11 yards.

Matt Waldman: Hill is another guy I'm adding where I can. I think there's low-percentage chance that long-term he could approach Steve Smith's caliber of play at wide receiver. 

Jason Wood: Low-percentage doesn't sound like an endorsement there, Matt. 

Matt Waldman: It doesn't, but considering most receivers have no shot at all of approaching Smith's skill set, that's worth something to me. 

Jason Wood: It's a weird way of saying it, but I gotcha.

Dave Larkin: Matt huffing those vintage jars of 1983 White-Out aside... 

Andy Hicks: We have a winner! 

Matt Waldman: If this were a dunk-a-man contest, I'd be waterlogged. 

Dave Larkin: Tyreek Hill has been consistent enough to warrant considering as a flex or even WR3. The Chiefs absolutely love what this kid can do, and he will keep getting his chances. 

Matt Waldman: Three votes for Hill, two different Bears receivers, and Michael Floyd. What about TE2s with upside?

John Mamula: Antonio Gates should keep up his momentum during the remainder of the season. The Chargers have been a M*A*S*H* unit at the WR position this season. Somebody has to pick up the slack.  

Matt Waldman: There's a reason I've been trolling these roundtables with Gates all season...

Andy Hicks: Because he's one of only a dozen players in the league who had to use White-Out for term papers like you?

Matt Waldman: Cold...

Andy Hicks: C.J. Fiedorowicz is someone I would be targeting. The Houston Texans face some nice Tight End matchups and if Brock Osweiler can't get it together during this stretch then the Texans are in trouble.

Dave Larkin: Eric Ebron is a classic boom-bust player at TE, but the Lions offense—and the level at which Matthew Stafford is playing—should be enough to give him high leverage opportunities for touchdowns. The matchups down the stretch don't look too shabby either. 

Jason Wood: Coby Fleener. The Saints offense is rolling along and Fleener sits at TE14 currently in spite of being a GHOST in the early weeks of the season. 

Matt Waldman: Gates, Fiedorowicz, Ebron, and Fleener. What about guys outside the top-24 not named Tyler Eifert

John Mamula: Austin Hooper looks to have an expanded role over the remainder of the season due to Jacob Tamme's expected season-ending surgery. Hooper should provide depth at the TE position and help you if you need a spot start. 

Dave Larkin: Hooper also intrigues me. Yes, you will have to take the bad with the good, but in the world of streaming TE options, he is not a bad option to have. 

Jason Wood: Zach Ertz is the easy choice there. He's currently TE26 and been a disappointment, but he's healthy and Philadelphia remains constrained at the wide receiver position. I don't see Ertz being the Top-10 guy most assumed in the preseason, but I see him putting up reasonable starting numbers in PPR formats over the remainder of the season. 

Andy Hicks: Keep rolling with Ertz. The lack of touchdowns is a worrying, but the last two weeks have seen 8 and 6 catches and after an injury plagued season he looks to be getting his game together now and developing nicely with Carson Wentz.

Chad Parsons: Vance McDonald's targets are on the rise. The past three games have been his most involved games of the season (six targets in each game). The 49ers will rarely be in a positive game script situation and McDonald has the athleticism to create big play upside any given week.

Matt Waldman: Ertz, Hooper, and McDonald (no White-Out necessary).

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Fantasy Playoff Prep

Most leagues begin its playoffs in Week 14. Let's have a discussion about the fantasy postseason: 

  • What's the best-worst ways to determine qualifying teams? Discuss the pros and cons of each method below or explain a process your favorite leagues use: When you have a team that has clinched a playoff berth at this point, what are some things you do to prep your squad for the postseason? 
    • Win-Loss
    • Total Points
    • Power Ranking
  • When you have a team that has clinched a playoff berth at this point, what are some things you do to prep your squad for the postseason? 
  • I've observed over the years that winning lineups in the postseason often appear markedly different from what you'd expect. Any advice to fantasy owners about lineup decisions--especially Weeks 15-16? 

Let's begin with ways to determine a playoff berth. Roll tape!

Dave Larkin: Great discussion topic, and one that has come up in my local league recently. I am of the opinion that win/loss record is too dependent on who you play and in what week you play them. For example, you could be the highest scoring team and have a poor record purely because you played higher scoring teams on a consistent basis. That is the main con. On the plus side, it is similar to real life games i.e. you won't always win if you score a lot of points, and even good rosters lose games. 

Total Points would be my preferred method of determining the final playoff spot in a four-team or six-team playoff format, and I plan to introduce it into my local league soon. A team's total points is a better indicator of how much talent they have, and therefore how well the owner drafted and supplemented their team with free agents/trades. A team that consistently scores among the highest totals every week deserves to be in the playoff picture. The downside of using total points to determine playoff spots is that it can sometimes be skewed by one or two weeks of incredible production. 

Power Ranking This can work well, although it is not a method I have considered before. Using the all-play record is an excellent way to determine the most competitive—and therefore, most playoff-worthy—teams. 

Matt Waldman: I really like using Power Ranking. I used this in a league that I started and ran for about five years. It accounted for W-L, Total Points, and All-Play. I thought it was a good combination of factors that accounted for building a good team.

There are teams that have the bad luck of facing opponents that outscore the rest of the league during the week they meet. And what I mean by "bad" luck isn't some excuse for poor lineup decisions. I'm talking about those instances where a 4-9 or 5-8 squad leads the league in points and had four contests where they outscored every other team but the opponent on the schedule.

Fantasy football doesn't include an element to it that stops the opponent from scoring, If it did, I'd feel better about W-L records as the heaviest factor for playoff berths. As it stands, I think it's limited and often doesn't give as good of an indication of which teams are good based on the spirit of the game.

Andy Hicks: I hate win-loss as a determining factor and your point fits my situation perfectly this year. I have the top scoring offense in one league and I'm ranked seventh. I either get the top score or get beaten by the top score.

In another league, I have won two games despite being a top-4 scorer. Of course, there are other teams that benefit from this, but it's never me. On a non-emotional level, it is the most realistic, simplistic and commonly used method. Weekly matchups against foes, enemies and friends alike make for great banter.

Total points is a simple method to use and one I prefer, but the weekly banter gets lost and it's easy for a side to get away from everyone else, especially if there are no playoffs

Like Dave, I'm not greatly familiar with power ranking and it would be hard to convince a group of average fantasy players to climb on board with a mathematical formula to determine standings. Head-to-Head and Total points are easier to understand. For hardcore players, I have no problem coming up with a system that gets the best of the most traditional methods, without the pitfalls.

Matt Waldman: Now I feel like I'm promoting the BCS system or this modified playoff system in college football. I suddenly feel the urge for a shower. 

Chad Parsons: I am not a big fan of using raw win-loss record. It is by far the most used format, but with such a short regular season in fantasy, this setup rarely produces the best four or six teams for the playoff tournament. However, this format is simple to understand, track, and handicap.

I like using total points better than win-loss record. This shows more overall team strength than the oscillations of matchups over a relatively short span. While this method takes away the classic 'grudge match' feel of head-to-head battles, the better teams will make and perform well in the playoffs more times than not.

There are many aspects of the Power Ranking chart on leagues. The two favorites of mine are all play record and potential points. Both are optimal ways to handicap league performance. All-Play is just how it sounds—a generated record based on every team playing every other team in the league each week.

While a low-scoring or high-scoring team can win or lose a matchup depending on their opponent in head-to-head, the sample size grows with all-play to produce more accuracy results across the league.

Potential Points operate in a similar fashion but on the points-only side of the coin. This gauges a team's performance in a best ball-type format where the software optimizes a team's starting lineup for their best options each week independent of the actual players selected by the owner. This represents the best case scenario for a fantasy team.

Steven Holloway: Head-to-head leagues that reward the division winners based on win-loss record create the most excitement throughout the season. However, it is a good compromise to use total points to determine additional playoff participants.

In leagues based totally on points, it seems that the higher ranked teams seem to be determined earlier which removes the week-to-week excitement down the stretch. It also reduces the week-to-week importance as well as league interaction.

I don't have any experience playing in leagues based on power ranking.

Alex Miglio: Win-loss is a terribly archaic way to determine fantasy football playoffs. Too many times have I witnessed or been the victim of a high-scoring team that has run into awful luck and either missed the playoffs or gotten an absurdly low seed. I'm a huge fan of total points—it rewards good drafting and in-season management. Power ranking isn't a bad way to do it either.

Jason Wood: As an old-school fantasy football enthusiast, I understand the allure of Win-Loss record since it's analogous to the way the sport is contested. Plenty of "better" NFL teams lose on any given Sunday. However, since fantasy is generally about statistical performance, I do think that it's not an ideal way to determine who are the best teams.

If I had my druthers, I would do an "all play" format where everyone plays everyone else each week. But that's a wildly unpopular and non-traditional format for most leagues and unlikely to be widely adopted.

The leagues I'm the commissioner, we've generally found a compromise where Win-Loss determines the top seeds, but total points are the primary tiebreaker and also the deciding factor for at least one—if not two—wild card playoff slots. 

Matt Waldman: I'm in the same boat with you, Wood. I think people on some level perversely enjoy the drama of living out potential unfair scenarios if it heightens the fun factor of individual matchups. I know I enjoy certain individual matchups a lot. 

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When you guys have a team that has clinched a playoff berth at this point, what are some things you do to prep your squad for the postseason? 

Stephen Holloway: Continue to churn the bottom of the roster searching for players with a potential at hitting big down the stretch. Look more forward regarding match-ups, particularly with team defenses.

Andy Hicks: Look at the schedule and improve your depth. Do not have a dead spot on your roster.

Chad Parsons: Acquire key handcuffs for running backs. Diagnosis preferred matchup sequences from the waiver wire. As Stephen mentioned, potentially add an optimal defense (or two) from the waiver wire to string together strong plays for the playoff weeks and with a heavier preference for the opening two weeks of the postseason.

Matt Waldman: I think that final part of your advice, Chad is striking. So many people think about Weeks 15-16, but now that you're margins for victory should be narrowed based on the quality of your competition, focusing on those early weeks matters more. 

Alex Miglio. Cut the chaff and look for handcuffs or future risers on the waiver wire. If you had Thomas Rawls before this week, for example, you would be in excellent shape. Don't be afraid to let go of players who haven't produced and are unlikely to produce going forward, even if that player was a high draft pick. You cannot look back at your draft or FAAB money used to dictate what you do going forward. 

Jason Wood: Some may advocate intentionally throwing a particular matchup to give yourself an easier matchup in the playoffs. For example, let's say Team A is 1st in total points but is 6-6 after twelve weeks. Meanwhile, Team B is 6th in points but is also 6-6 and you're playing them in Week 13. I know some who say it's in your best interest to try to throw your matchup so the team that's 6th in points has a better shot at making the playoffs over Team A.

Matt Waldman: I have NEVER heard that before. Wow...

Jason Wood: While I understand the STRATEGIC thought behind that type of decision, I VEHEMENTLY disagree with it in practice. I feel it's best to play to win each and every week, and if that means beating the better teams in the playoffs, so be it. 

John Mamula: Depth and matchups are key in the playoffs. Many leagues lock the waiver wire for the playoffs so you need to ensure that you have backups in case injury strikes. 

Matt Waldman: Depth, depth, handcuffs, and prioritize the early weeks of the playoffs. Got it.

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I've observed over the years that winning lineups in the postseason often appear markedly different from what you'd expect. Any advice to fantasy owners about lineup decisions—--especially Weeks 15-16?     

Jason Wood: First, don't take yourself too seriously. If you had a Cam Newton+Friends (Panthers) lineup you probably rolled into the playoffs as the 1-seed. And then if you started Cam against the Falcons in your key playoff matchup he gave you 142 yards passing and zero touchdowns—you probably got "upset."

In all the years I've been playing fantasy football, I would say objectively I've not considered myself the best team yet won the Super Bowl as often as I've considered myself the best team, but was upset in the playoffs.

Second, be daring. I espouse "starting your studs" all season long but in the playoffs, you only get one shot at making the right moves. If you feel like a certain player has a hot hand, go with your instincts. I fully accept losing playoff matchups, but it's always a harder pill to swallow if you don't trust your instincts and lose because of it. 

Matt Waldman: They taste bad. Onterrio Smith's big game is still memorable when I didn't listen to my gut. 

Dave Larkin: Who is Onterrio Smith? 

Matt Waldman: The Original Whizzin--never mind. 

Jason Wood: I'm rolling...

John Mamula: Trust your gut. Stick to the process that you used during the season. Ultimately, fantasy football is supposed to be fun, even if it is for money or bragging rights. 

Alex Miglio: This is a tough one. Generally, go with what's working for you—your team made it this far—but sometimes there are unexpected boons or boondoggles that drastically affect output. On this question, I will say that DFS is rather informative.

You are essentially playing in a weekly league when you are in the playoffs, particularly in the championship game. One thing DFS looks at for data is Vegas—what do the oddsmakers have to say about the people on your team?

If Marcus Mariota has lifted your team to new heights, but the Titans are slated to score 19 points against a great defense, you might want to think twice about playing him if you have a viable second option.

Matt Waldman: That's an interesting perspective, I've never considered. 

Stephen Holloway Don't be afraid to start players who have not played much to this point of the season but find themselves by either injury or suspension, in a place where they will likely be the player their team in counting on. It typically happens more frequently with running backs.

Andy Hicks: You have to be very careful here in striking a balance between using the players that got you here and running with players that are hot. Everyone remembers players like Marcus Robinson or Drew Bennett who were hot during the playoffs--

Dave Larkin: Who are those guys?

Matt Waldman: Now who's old?

Andy Hicks: You're not any younger just because I entered the facility...

Matt Waldman: True enough.

Andy Hicks: We also remember established studs who got injured or underperformed in key weeks. On the whole, I would rather use the guys that got you there. Don't bench Ezekiel Elliot for Terrance West in Week 16 because West has a good matchup.

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  • Is Todd Gurley a special back stuck in a terrible situation or is he overrated because he can't transcend the weaknesses of his surrounding talent?
  • When the national broadcast crew asked Doug Pederson about his running back situation before the game, the Eagles coach grew ever more confused. At first, he seemed definitive about getting Ryan Mathews more carries and it played out this way during the first half of the Falcons game, But when Pederson talked about Darren Sproles, he said it was difficult to take him off the field and that the guy never taps out when he's in the game. As of this week, Mathews is RB18 and Sproles RB29. Is the Eagles backfield turning into a quagmire or is there a clear-cut option?
  • Is Vernon Davis's recent run of production sustainable as the TE2 in this Washington offense? He's TE17 for the year, but TE4 since Week6. 
  • Colin Kaepernick has been QB11 since Week 7. He's outperforming Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton and Eli Manning during that span. Would you roll with Kaepernick over any of these six?
  • Name one QB, RB, WR, and TE current in the top 12 of each position that you expect to underperform their current ranking for the rest of the season.

Matt Waldman: Let's begin with Gurley.

Stephen Holloway: Gurley is definitely talented, but his opportunities are minimal. Even though Keenum has completed only 61 percent of his passes, averages slightly under 7.0 ypa and totals 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on the season, he has held off No.1 overall pick Jared Goff until this week.

The Rams are dead last in scoring per game, 31st in yards gained per game, and 25th in passing yards per game. They have been generally inept in all categories and all that spells trouble. The combination of poor offense and poor offensive line play makes for problems for all players and particularly the lead running back.

Dave Larkin: I think the issue with Gurley is that people wanted to believe he would transcend his circumstances. The expectations were 'I'm taking him with a top-six pick and there is no reason he shouldn't carry on from where he left off in 2015', but that set the bar way too high.

Gurley is a talented back in a bad situation, but quite honestly he should be doing more with what he has. The Rams offensive line is one of the poorer run blocking units in the league, but Gurley should make any line look good.

To me, he is suffering a lack of confidence—and that is affecting his natural rhythm as a runner. Every back needs to hit a few notes before they can start the show for real; this year, Gurley has been missing those cues by a beat or two far too much. The coaching staff is culpable for not giving him more touches, but I believe he has to finish strong to get back into our good graces. 

Stephen Holloway: I agree with Dave that Gurley has probably lost confidence. Last season the Cowboys offensive line overcame a poor passing game, witnessed by Darren McFadden rushing for over 1,000 yards and averaging 4.6 ypc (more than a yard per carry more than he had in the past three seasons). Offensive line success is critical for running game production.

Andy Hicks: Gurley started his career fantastically. He had 112 carries for 655 rushing yards in his first 5 starts. Since then, it has been 278 carries for 959 yards at 3.44 yards a pop over his last 16 games, including a 16-carry,140-yard game against the Lions in week 14. 

At some stage, people need to stop making excuses and ponder the possibility that he might not be as good as first thought. I do agree with the others that offensive scheme and talent do come into it at some point, but many great running backs in the past have made do with poor offensive casts around them.

They certainly didn't average 3.11 yards a carry. His schedule does open up and a truer judgment can be made at season's end.

Jason Wood: I think we let last year cloud our judgment on Gurley; in particular, his hot start. We knew coming into this season that the Rams were likely one of the worst offensive teams in football, and yet many of us (myself included) used last year's heroics to think Gurley was "game script proof."

Yet, we now know he's anything but. As Andy brings up, we can't completely discount the idea that he's simply not as talented as we first thought, too. Analytically speaking, I think Gurley remains a highly talented running back that would be a top tier fantasy asset even playing with an average NFL offense.

If I had any faith the Rams were going to blow everything up and install a new coaching staff, I would say Gurley is a fantastic buy-low in dynasty leagues. But until I see Jeff Fisher sent packing, my expectations for Gurley are decidedly reduced. 

John Mamula: Gurley is a special back stuck in a terrible situation. I avoided Gurley this season due to his QB, receivers, and offensive line. Too many factors to overcome. There were numerous games last season where Gurley would struggle for plays on end only to have an opportunity where he reached the 2nd level and broke a long TD. He seemed much more boom/bust than his statistics portrayed. 

Alex Miglio: Gurley was a classic "avoid because of the offense" guy this year. I didn't expect it to be this bad, but he is clearly being held back by Jeff Fisher's mediocre team. We saw flashes of his special potential last season, and I have a feeling we'll see a few more before the year is over. It'll be interesting to see what Jared Goff does to lift the offense and help Gurley break out of his funk.

Matt Waldman: Let's weigh-in on Mathews-Sproles. 

Andy Hicks: Matchups, running with the hot hand and adjusting on the go are what we are facing on a week-to-week basis in Philadelphia. You cannot trust either back to get you even a basic floor on any given week. Good luck if you are stuck with this predicament.

Stephen Holloway: It is definitely challenging to project the Eagles' running game. Sproles has been more consistent due to his effectiveness as a receiver and the fact that he has about 65 percent as many rushes. However, in the two games where Mathews has been heavily involved (weeks 1 and 10) he has averaged 20.5 carries, 93 yards, and 1.5 touchdowns.

Yet, in the seven games between those two, Mathews has averaged under 8 carries per game. In PPR leagues, Sproles has the better floor as he has three times the receptions, 33 to Mathews 11.

Jason Wood: As an Eagles fan, I have no issues with the way Pederson is using the running backs. Philadelphia is 8th in attempts, 8th in rushing yards and 4th in rushing touchdowns. One of the reasons the offense is working well—in spite of a rookie quarterback, subpar receivers, and an offensive line missing its stud right tackle—is Pederson's ability to vary the play-calling and formations.

He's been creative and that's paid off. He's also made the running game a core part of every game script. While you're mainly asking about Mathews and Sproles, let's also not forget that Wendell Smallwood is getting plenty of run.

Matt Waldman: That's because you're a smart fella who notices these things. Tom Coughlin would buy you a pack of Wuerther's Originals if you weren't an Eagles fan or if Cecil Lammey didn't buy the last pack. 

Jason Wood: Smallwood had 13 rushes for 70 yards against Atlanta (Mathews had 19 for 109, by comparison). For fantasy purposes, I think it's hard to decipher week-to-week. Sproles is a suitable start every week as an RB3/Flex in PPR leagues but doesn't have the usage to be an RB1/RB2 in most situations. Mathews reminded us last week that he's capable of RB1 production, but I don't think that signals some new commitment to him. 

John Mamula: There is not a clear option, even to Doug Pederson. It is a shame because a bell cow RB would be a Top 7 RB in this offense. Sproles is an RB2 or flex option in PPR leagues.  As long as he can stay healthy, he is the RB that I prefer moving forward. 

Alex Miglio: It is already a quagmire. When Ryan Mathews went off a couple of weeks ago, I would wager to say most fantasy owners had him on the bench. It's turned into a Bill Belichick situation, though the Patriots coach has been riding one running back pretty steadily this season.

Dave Larkin: Unfortunately there isn't a clear-cut option, but it is clear to me that Ryan Mathews offers more as a total package than Sproles does. A fresher Mathews looked explosive and powerful against the Falcons, and perhaps his prowess in short yardage would have been an asset in the Giants loss.

Pederson must have looked at the running back situation objectively and determined that Mathews provides more punch. Sproles is not an afterthought by any means—he will have a big say and will get his touches—but my feeling is Mathews is the back to own down the stretch. 

Matt Waldman: I say bring Brian Westbrook out of retirement. Speaking of players we thought were closer to retirement than they now appear, Vernon Davis has earned a decent run of production. Is it sustainable as the TE2 in the Washington offense?

Alex Miglio: I thought Jordan Reed's return would spell doom for Davis' production. That hasn't been the case so far, but a closer look at his stats put up a red flag—targets. Davis peaked this season with six targets three weeks ago. His 100 percent catch rate over the past three games is simply unsustainable and averaging just over four targets a game over that span isn't conducive to long-term success.

John Mamula: If you don't expect too much out of Davis, you won't be let down. As long as Jordan Reed is on the field, I can't rely on Davis. 

Andy Hicks: I agree with Alex and John. Davis maximized his three targets last week, but you cannot rely on that few targets. The other stats were when Jordan Reed was out and a great matchup for Tight Ends against the Bengals in Reed's first game back. Fools gold unless Jordan Reed gets injured again.

Stephen Holloway: Davis is once again producing as a viable starter, but even with that production, he is fifth in targets on the season for Washington. Davis continuing to produce as TE4 is not realistic, but he should continue to be involved. He has caught 26 passes on only 29 targets and averages 14.7 ypr, by far his highest average in three seasons.

Jason Wood: Sure, why not? Once a player possesses a given skill, I don't think he loses that skill barring significant injury. We know Davis has an elite offensive ability, particularly when asked to win matchups in close quarters. Jordan Reed hasn't been himself, and I think the risk factor for Davis is Reed rounding back into shape for the stretch run. Yet, with DeSean Jackson injured, too, Davis can continue his modest role. 

Dave Larkin: Davis' snap count is not where I would like to see it (71, 39, 34 over the past three weeks) but he definitely has Kirk Cousins' attention as a viable option. His touchdown against Minnesota came on a busted coverage, but the design of the play stood out. It was a classic variation on a bootleg play action pass, with Davis sneaking up the seam.

The Redskins can provide plenty of opportunities such as this for Davis moving forward as their running game is revitalised under 'Fat Rob' Kelley. So Davis' production is absolutely sustainable; you will just have to take the good with the bad, not unlike any other tight end not named Gronkowski.

Matt Waldman: I'm buying Davis because if there's a tight end in the NFL that can make the most of his smaller target share it's him. I also wonder if the targets are not the right trend to base a point about him. Dave's point about scheme usage leans towards Davis earning more looks because of the strategic advantages two-tight end sets pose for offensive balance. 

And if you really examine these two tight ends, Davis is still probably faster than Reed. He's a better blocker than Reed, but Reed is more established, makes more money, and has more experience in the offense. Davis has also had a more mercurial career of ups and downs—sometimes due to immaturity, other times due to inflexible offensive minds (Mike Martz). 

At a position as flexible as tight end, I'll take my chances on Davis down the stretch. 

Let's talk Kaepernick. He has been QB11 since Week 7. He's outperforming Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton and Eli Manning during that span. Would you roll with Kaepernick over any of these six?

Alex Miglio: No.

Matt Waldman: No?

Alex Miglio: Well, maybe. Kaepernick has been somewhat surprising with his production since Week 7, but QB11 isn't exactly world-beating. Byes and letdowns have contributed to his success, after all. He has also faced some suspect defenses. He's just not someone I trust in my starting lineup.

Matt Waldman: Anyone got anything more definitive either way? Say, Mamula who disabled the bear trap at the entrance of my office to steal the quiz questions...

John Mamula: Yes, I prefer Kaepernick over Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. Kaepernick has an extremely high floor due to his rushing totals. Over the past four games, Kaepernick has averaged 57 rushing yards/per game. That's almost the equivalent of an additional TD each week. 

Jason Wood: I would absolutely start him over Carson Palmer who just looks terrible. I wouldn't start him over the others. Kaepernick is a bit of smoke and mirrors right now and if we're looking at mean regression most of the other QBs on that list have significantly higher upside over the remaining games. 

Andy Hicks: Over Carson Palmer? Definitely. The others would depend on matchups. He would be tempting over Eli this week, but the others offer more consistency than Kaepernick. Carson Palmer is the guy heading over the cliff right now and I would be comfortable using the 49ers player over him in most weeks.

Stephen Holloway: I would not roll with Kaepernick going forward. He is averaging only 53 percent completion rate and is facing tougher defenses over the next few weeks, including the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets.

Dave Larkin: With his schedule in mind, the game scripts continue to trend in Kaepernick's favor, so he is worth considering as a starter at this point. Of the quarterbacks you mentioned, I would take him over Dalton, Manning, and Palmer.

The rushing upside is enough to tip the balance, but the up-and-down nature of these passers always gives me pause before clicking the box next to their name at the moment of truth. It may not always be pretty with the 49ers quarterback, but when you look up at the end of the game and he has netted you 20 points again, you'll feel better. 

Matt Waldman: Let's end this roundtable with a QB, RB, WR, and TE currently in the top 12 at each position that you expect to underperform their current status for the rest of the year. 

Jason Wood: 

Matt Ryan: He was a perfect choice for (positive) mean regression last  year as his TD rate and other peripheral metrics were well shy of his career norms. This season he's not only normalized but it performing far above his historic norms. With the Falcons coming back to Earth as a team, I don't see Ryan finishing out the year as QB1. Will he be a fantasy Top 10 passer? Probably so, but I don't see him as an elite play over the final few weeks. 

Matt Forte: He has been terrific thus far, but with the Jets collapsing on themselves and opting for Bryce Petty at quarterback, I think it's unreasonable to expect the offense to be efficient enough to continue providing Forte with so many touchdown opportunities. 

Terrelle Pryor: Pryor is an amazing story, but is he really a Top 12 receiver? The Browns are so bad and have had such inconsistency at the quarterback position I just don't see Pryor maintaining WR1 status over the final few games. 

Jack Doyle: Doyle has been a nice story but he's not a special athlete and the Colts were without most of their receiving corps for the stretch of games when Doyle was scoring touchdowns. 

Stephen Holloway: 

Blake Bortles is averaging only a 60% completion rate and 6.37 ypa on the season. Games in three of the next four weeks against tough defenses of Buffalo, Denver and Minnesota.

Mark Ingram II due to sharing carries with Hightower and the Saints going down swinging in division games with an even heavier dose of the passing attack.

Larry Fitzgerald has seen his production gradually fade as the season winds down and his nagging injury could also play a role in decreased opportunities.

Jack Doyle will see fewer targets with the return of Moncrief and Allen. Doyle has the second most targets on the Colts to this point and is tied for the lead in touchdowns. He will not sustain either of those statistics.

Dave Larkin: 

According to rankings Blake Bortles is currently a top 12 option. I can see him getting yanked from the starting job at some point, so he would be a good bet to underperform down the stretch. No other player in the top 12 carries that kind of risk. 

Matt Forte represents a risky proposition on a poor team quarterbacked by Bryce Petty. The Jets are circling the drain, so Forte will begin to drop back to the pack as the offense stagnates. If Fitzpatrick comes back in it may not even make that much of a difference. 

As strange as it seems to say, Jordy Nelson is my choice at wide receiver. There is a fatal flaw in the Packers offense and Nelson's production may be directly correlated with Aaron Rodgers' ability to orchestrate comebacks. Nelson will get his fair share of targets otherwise, but defenses will key on him and force the quarterback to go elsewhere. Mike McCarthy may press the panic button and change up the offensive system in an effort to jumpstart their season, but it may not be enough for Nelson. 

Greg Olsen is the top-ranked tight end in some scoring systems, but I feel he will drop off a good bit before the end of the year. The Panthers offensive line is playing poorly right now, and Olsen is such a good blocker that he is being forced to stay in more often. The game this week against the Chiefs was a prime example; Olsen would pass protect before going out into a pattern, or simply run shorter routes. This will cap his upside big time. 

John Mamula:

  • Blake Bortles has generated much of his fantasy points while playing from behind again this season. That is not a good formula to rely on.                                                        
  • Frank Gore is ranked in the top 10 RBs mainly due to his 7 TDs. Expect Gore to regress with TDs over the remainder of the season.                                                                
  • Davante Adams benefited from injuries to Randall Cobb and the Packers RB. With Cobb and James Starks returning to the field, expect Adams numbers to regress.      
  • Jason Witten is ranked in the top 10 mainly due to one massive game vs Cleveland. (8 receptions, 134 yards, and 1 TD) He doesn't have over 66 yards in any other game. 

Andy Hicks: have to agree with the others about Blake Bortles. This is another dead year for the Jaguars and everyone knows they are going in a new direction for next year.

At running back, jump off Blount. The matchups are poor and they will win with Brady. His touchdown numbers are his saving grace.

The soft target is the guy ranked 12th at wide receiver in Davante Adams. The Packers are poorly matched against pass defenses on the run home and Adams is nothing special. 

Tight End, Delanie Walker is performing phenomenally. But he still has a bye to come and matchups against the Broncos, Chiefs, and Jacksonville to close most fantasy seasons.

Matt Waldman: Now that you've named half of the players on my fantasy rosters, I bid you good night! 

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