Roundtable Week 2

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

Now that the grand unveiling of the NFL season has come and gone, we discuss the following topics: 

Adrian Peterson

Should fantasy owners be worried about Adrian Peterson's Week 1 performance? Was it a sign of his age, a product of him not playing in the preseason, or simply a good defensive effort by the Titans?

Jason Wood: I would be worried. The stats aren't a problem in a vacuum. Many players have bad weeks. But it's the context of the Week One performance that was troublesome. Peterson got the touches; he was a high volume player. The Vikings were in a close game early and then milking a lead late. It was the kind of game that lent itself to Peterson dominating. Yet he didn't.

Stephen Holloway: I agree with Jason. Minnesota's offense finished 29th in the NFL in yards per game a year ago and following the loss of Teddy Bridgewater, they could see that lack of success continue this year. Nobody will be afraid of their passing attack (31st last year) which should lead to even more focus on stopping Peterson. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 327 carries a year ago, but will have a tough row to hoe to come close to that production in 2016.

Andy Hicks: Concerned? Not at all. Some of the blocking efforts of the lineman were laughable and that will be a priority for the coaching staff to get right. Tennessee challenged Shaun Hill to beat them, but it was a weird game where Minnesota's defense was good enough to win the game. Once Sam Bradford is under center and the Vikings have a semblance of a passing threat, Peterson will be fine. Call it knocking off the rust or whatever you like, but Peterson will be back.

Matt Waldman: I'm with Andy, I'm holding steady on Peterson. Jurrell Casey is a beast of a run defender and did a great job getting into the Vikings' backfield yesterday. Peterson is also a notoriously slow starter. We all remember his opener after the big knee injury but what we have forgotten is that Peterson's production hasn't been strong during the opener since 2013.

Year: Attempts-Yds-TDs  FPts  End of Year Ranking

  • 2012: 17-84-2   20.7      1
  • 2013: 18-93-2   29.1      6
  • 2014: 21-75-0    9.3       Suspended after 1 game
  • 2015: 10-31-0    5.2       2
  • 2016: 19-31-0    3.1       ?

After watching the game, Peterson had some good runs and bad runs but they were based on decision-making more than a decline in physical skills. The burst, agility, and strength were all there but he missed a huge cutback lane to his right during the first half. Former All-Pro linebacker Chris Spielman, who was doing color for the game even criticized Peterson for missing this hole and attributed it to rust.

And as good as Peterson's vision is, he often misses holes. My friend Chad Spann did a recent piece for me on my blog this summer that shows Peterson missing a crease on a gap play. He still had a nice gain but he clearly misses the intended space to hit that would have resulted in a longer gain.   

At least for now, I'm attributing Peterson's game to rust, missing a big-play opportunity, and the Titans baiting the Vikings to throw. The first two points get the most weight.  

Chris Feery: I’ll hold tight on the concerns for now, but Peterson’s Week 1 performance was definitely an eye-opener. For now, I’ll lean towards the same things said above: a combination of a decent defensive effort by the Titans combined with Peterson shaking off the rust.

If we don’t see a game out of him that delivers Peterson-like things by Week 3 or 4, different story. I’ll begin to get pretty worried.   


Cowboys Fantasy Options

Dak Prescott didn't make any mistakes but he authored few explosive plays—rushes of at least 12 yards and receptions of at least 16 yards—as defined by the NFL. The Giants seemed content to cover the deepest reaches of the field and force the Cowboys offense into one of two outcomes:

1) Dare Prescott to complete long scoring drives with the hope that he either gets impatient with the process and makes a mistake or

2) Hold the Cowboys to field goals.

The Giants won because Prescott and the Cowboys fulfilled Outcome No.2 and the New York offense authored big plays and limited mistakes. Prescott earned a lot of praise for his mistake-free play but it didn't wow fantasy owners.

How does the Cowboys' week 1 performance change or reinforce your fantasy outlook for the Dallas skill players? Who thrives? Who falters?

Andy Hicks: It is a work in progress. Prescott will be limited by a) his inexperience and b) the conservativeness of the coaching. At best, he is an emergency option only for fantasy owners in 2016.

Ezekiel Elliott missed a few chances to break a big one by being a little too eager and generally playing like a rookie running back. Expectations were too big by far for Elliott.

Dez Bryant may not have the upside he once had, but will get his chances. At the moment, I would say he is a fantasy WR2 until either Prescott finds a groove or Tony Romo returns. Jason Witten is a solid bottom end TE1 and Cole Beasley will have games of 6-7 catches mixed in with the 1-2 catch efforts.

Jason Wood: Full disclosure -- I own Dak Prescott on four dynasty rosters. I'm intrigued by his long-term potential. Yet, I think the hype in redrafts has and is OUT OF HAND. Sure, he looked fine. But let me give you two stat lines for comparison:

  • 25 for 44 for 227 yards (5.2 per attempt) / 0 TDs 0 INTs / 70.9 passer rating.
  • 22 for 37 for 278 yards (7.5 per attempt) / 2 TDs 0 INTs / 101.0 passer rating.

The first was Dak Prescott. The second was Carson Wentz. Both teams played home openers against bad defenses, but Wentz was legitimately good and led his team to a victory.

If I'm a Dak Truther, I look at this first week as mildly encouraging. But I need to see more. A lot more.

Personally, I think Dak will have major struggles in the coming weeks. That does NOT mean he's not going to be a good NFL starter and/or the Cowboys post-Romo answer. But history tells us that mid-round rookie QBs rarely if ever turn into quality NFL starters. I'm open to Dak bucking the trend, but I need a lot more from him than what we saw against the Giants.

Matt Waldman: If Prescott were a boxer, his cornerman (offensive coordinator Scott Linehan) told the quarterback to do very defined things, don't get too creative, and keep the fight close. The fact that he did these things and kept Dallas in a position to win the game is why he earned praise from NFL players, analysts, and coaches. But he's not doing what Russell Wilson did as a rookie. 

The game plan was to throw a lot of jabs and hope that the opponent's defenses open wide enough to land easy body blows and haymakers. If not, don't get fancy with combinations or throw any wild bombs that can lead to the opponent capitalizing big on mistakes. 

Prescott did exactly what he was told, but the lack of gains beyond 16 yards in the passing game and 12 yards in the rushing game—defined as explosive plays in the NFL—failed to loosen up the Giants defense and it led to field goals instead of touchdowns. It also meant a poor output from Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams, who helped open the shallow range the of Giants' defense with their intermediate and deep routes and gave Prescott easy options to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley

I believe this is how the Cowboys intend to approach its offense for at least the next month because if Prescott can continue to execute this type of mistake-free football on prolonged drives that lead to points—even field goals—the Dallas defense stays rested and there's a greater possibility that the opponent makes mistakes that lead to better field position and more points. 

The double-edged sword with this approach is that opponents are willing to let the Cowboys offense do this work because prolonged drives without explosive plays that have been statistically proven to lead to fewer points. Allowing field goals sure beats giving up bombs to Dez Bryant for seven. Opponents also hope that Prescott will lose his patience and try to force big plays if the Cowboys get behind, which will lead to turnovers.

For the next month, I'm holding onto or adding Witten as an option with mid-range TE1 upside. Beasley has WR4 PPR upside for the same range of time and he could generate WR2 production in any given week. 

I'm worried about Dez Bryant. You'd think the Cowboys would have confidence in Prescott throwing slants to one of the most physical receivers in the league but that didn't happen. If there's one route I believe we'll see added soon, it's this one and it could infuse fantasy life back into Bryant. But NFL defenses are pretty good at disguising drops by DLs and LBs into coverage lanes, which could lead to a lot more trouble.  

I am not starting Bryant right now in dynasty leagues where I own him because I need to see proof that he will be more than a boom-bust red zone fade specialist with a low ceiling. His main purpose could remain that of a deep zone decoy that opens things for Witten and Beasley.

I'm interested to see just how mature Bryant has become as a teammate if this gameplan continues for weeks on end and it means he's not statistically productive and Dallas continues to lose close games. I'm not sure there are a lot of top-drawer receivers in this league who would suck it up and deal with it quietly, but it's what should be expected from a professional.

I'm less concerned about Elliott. He wasn't perfect but his touchdown was a good example of his skills and he ran hard and often took what was there without getting undisciplined.

Elliott may not earn the easy opportunities that come with a veteran quarterback who understands the complexities of NFL defenses and changes run plays to benefit his running back, but he'll still make plays that keep him in the mix as a fantasy starter in leagues with 2-3 backs in lineups. 

Chris Feery: I agree with Matt that Jason Witten receives a solid boost for as long as Dak Prescott is behind center. It appears that the pair has developed some nice chemistry in their short time together in the preseason, and it's also pretty clear that the rookie will be looking in his direction whenever he sees signs of trouble.

However, unlike Matt, I don't think all is immediately lost for Dez Bryant owners. As the team’s confidence in the rookie improves, the coaches will open up the game plan a bit more. Prescott will not be shy about taking his shots when he gets the green light.

Stephen Holloway: Chris is right about the Cowboys continuing to open the playbook for Prescott going forward. He was known at Mississippi State as a rather poor practice player, but a gamer when the lights came on.

Who knows how his confidence would have been had Dez Bryant hung onto the apparent touchdown that was reversed as an incompletion? Following Week 1, the biggest changes I see are what everyone else has mentioned: increased opportunities for both Jason Witten and Cole Beasley at the expense of the wide receivers.

Still, I would not write off Dez Bryant. He can still be the most frequently-targeted Cowboy and will be productive with the increased opportunities. Bryant could be a great buy-low target.


Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman

Tevin Coleman out-produced Devonta Freeman in fantasy leagues during Week 1. Neither performed well on the ground, but Coleman was far more productive in the passing game. 

Is this a "game plan gone well" situation or is this the beginning of a trend for fantasy owners to act upon?

Andy Hicks: The warning signs were there last year when Coleman started the season with 20 carries for 80 yards. He had 17 and 18 carries in successive games once he came back from injury as well.

That said Freeman is still the No.1 runner and did well as a receiver last year. I would call it a one-game situation for now, but it could easily go in any direction, ranging from Coleman winning the starting job outright to Freeman being the back he was last year.

I would pounce on a wounded Freeman owner if I had the chance but ideally, I would like to have both backs to see where this situation plays out. If there is one winner then they will be very valuable.

Chad Parsons: I was down on Devonta Freeman heading into the season and Week 1 did nothing but support my thinking. Tevin Coleman saw designed plays, more in space, and has big-play upside.

Devonta Freeman reminds me of Doug Martin where most of his touches are grinding on the interior with a goal line look his best chance to boost his fantasy day. Freeman owners should be concerned and Coleman is a viable flex or RB2 with upside from there.

Stephen Holloway: I ranked Freeman the lowest of all staffers in PPR scoring and only had him at RB10. Following Week 1, my player comment looks dead on:

"Devonta Freeman had minimum success as a rookie and was almost an afterthought before last season. However, he took advantage of lackluster play and an injury to rookie Tevin Coleman and exploded in the Falcons’ third game with 193 total yards and 3 TDs against the Cowboys. He had over 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the next five games. He slowed down in the second half, but his 73 receptions and 14 total TDs allowed him to finish as the top fantasy running back. My expectations are for Coleman to play better and reduce Freeman’s touches this season."

I suspect that Atlanta will use a full-blown RBBC approach. Furthermore, they don't look to be improved defensively, so they may be throwing more and running less. Coleman looks to be the value pick (by far), but they could end up producing similarly over the full season. 

Jason Wood: As Andy references, we must remember Coleman appeared to be the "lead dog" at the start of last season, too, before getting hurt. While I think Freeman is capable of greatness (we saw as much last season), we've seen no evidence to suggest the coaches don't view both players as integral pieces.

What we don't know is, do they view them interchangeably? If so, this could be a "hot hand" approach which is the ultimate bad news for fantasy owners trying to figure out weekly roster combinations.

Chris Feery: It’s a "game plan gone well" for this week, but there are also clear signs that the hot hand approach will be taken as the Falcons move forward. There was plenty of noise this summer that Coleman would be seeing a larger role in 2016, and he’ll cement his status with another strong week or two. Long-term, this looks like an RBBC situation, but there could be value for both backs on a weekly basis depending on the matchup.  

Matt Waldman: I've been among the most vociferous critics of Coleman's game. He was not an NFL-caliber runner between the tackles on zone plays when he entered the league despite the fact that Indiana ran the outside zone scheme that matches Kyle Shanahan's offense. Coleman's NFL-caliber athletic ability helped him cheat enough bad decisions at Indiana that he was still productive—even if it was in boom-bust fashion.

Boom-bust decision-making that leans too much on outrunning defenders rather than making mature decisions within the confines of the blocking scheme doesn't work in the NFL if a back wants to become a long-term starter—look at the careers of C.J. Spiller, Laurence Maroney, and Darren McFadden.  Even the Falcons had to concede that Coleman wasn't making smart decisions between the tackles on zone runs and they went to gap blocking with Coleman in the game to make the most of his athletic ability. 

So while I understand that Coleman started well last year, so did the offensive line. The passing game also became predictable because the only option for Atlanta that could get open at any part of the field was Julio Jones. When the passing game becomes predictable, a defense can focus on taking away Jones deep and then load the box to force short passing. 

Devonta Freeman is simply a better running back between the tackles. He was an afterthought as a rookie, but he actually made excellent decisions when the team gave him opportunities. Freeman's pass protection needed work and with a weak offensive line, Atlanta didn't want to risk Freeman giving up a season-ending hit to its quarterback. 

I haven't seen a massive improvement from Coleman as a zone runner. He bounced too many plays outside against Cleveland during the preseason and on the same plays, Freeman was more productive and made the correct decisions. 

Despite these facts, the Atlanta staff knows that Coleman's game-breaking speed and momentum-based power is so good in space that the offense can become dangerous if it finds ways to get him the ball. Coleman did an excellent job as a receiver and the Falcons used a variety of methods to get the second-year back into space. 

The question is whether Kyle Shanahan can continue to create inventive ways to feed Coleman the ball in space that doesn't become predictable for opponents to sniff out. One of the great things about Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs is that Washington's ground game was based on three run plays. What made the ground game so special was the ways Gibbs varied formations to keep opponents from guessing which of those three plays were coming.

If Shanahan can figure out the same thing with Coleman as a space player, the runner is in for a big year and Freeman is reduced to a flex-play or bye-week option with red zone value or match-up value against weak defensive fronts. If not, I agree with Jason and Chris that this situation becomes a hot hand scenario where Coleman gets hot for a few weeks, teams adjust to stopping him in space, and it opens things up for Freeman. 

The trouble with this outcome is that just as fantasy owners catch up to the "zig" the Falcons backfield will "zag." And I want no part of it.  


Chargers Offense

With Keenan Allen missing another season for the Chargers, there are a lot of questions fantasy owners want to know:

Tell us where you stand.

Chris Feery: They’ll be all over the map until a clear lead dog emerges. In the short term, Danny Woodhead should be the biggest beneficiary. He’ll slide into the safety blanket role, and owners that drafted him should be in line for a much greater return on investment than they were anticipating.

The Chargers were quite high on Tyrell Williams throughout the summer, and he’s been a name that’s been on the top of the list for an Allen replacement. He’ll obviously see a big boost compared to the role he was initially in line for, but we also need to tap the brakes on expecting him to immediately become the target vacuum that Allen was. For now, it’s a committee approach with names such as Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman in the mix.  

The injury has a definite benefit for Woodhead owners and it's a solid 'maybe' for Gordon owners. We can safely assume that Woodhead will see a bump in targets, and his owners are likely thanking their own prescience for drafting him right about now.

Gordon looked great in Week 1, and he’s also coming off of a terrific summer. He already appeared to be in line for a sophomore bounce, but it’ll be interesting to see what he does with an expected increased to his workload.  

Chad Parsons:Tyrell Williams is the ‘hot’ name and probably the most short-term upside if he hits. However, Dontrelle Inman is a much cheaper option and saw more than 75% of the snaps last week – tops of the Chargers receiver group. 

I would boost two names the most after the Keenan Allen injury: Danny Woodhead and Hunter Henry. Woodhead, even with a positive game script, had a 2-to-1 edge over Melvin Gordon III in snaps last week. Plus, Woodhead is Philip Rivers’ security blanket.

For Henry, I was pleased with 41% of the snaps in Week 1 for the rookie tight end and Antonio Gates looked a step slower than a year ago and close to physically done. Now with Allen out, Henry is the best pure talent of the options to see a significant playing time boost.

Matt Waldman: I can't say I agree with Chad about Gates. I thought Gates consistently made the first man miss and created space after the catch in scenarios that weren't realistic to expect any tight end to win the one-on-ones he was faced with. That said, I agree with Chad that we'll see more of Henry with Allen out because the 12 personnel (two tight end) sets will also enhance the ground game. 

I also agree with Chad that Woodhead will earn more production because he has a terrific understanding of the slot receiver position. But I'm not as down on Gordon. I think Woodhead will effectively earn a greater distribution of Allen's targets than Williams and Inman. While Allen could get deep and work the intermediate areas of the field, he was at his best as a short area option with skill after the catch and that's how he was used early last year and this. It's also why the team added deep threat Travis Benjamin

It also means Woodhead earns the meat of Allen's role with some of it flowing over to the tight ends. Williams and Inman will split the rest and it won't be as significant part of the pie. 

Stephen Holloway: I agree with Chad on the opportunities increasing for both Danny Woodhead and Hunter Henry. Henry's number of snaps in week one are reassuring for increases with the loss of Allen. Woodhead had seven targets, only one less than the team leader Travis Benjamin and will be consistently targeted going forward.

And Woodhead owners will be helped due to the increased targets. Gordon may see fewer carries as the team is forced to throw even more because the team lost its top playmaker and I think the defense is vulnerable enough for the offense to be behind on the scoreboard early and often this year.

The Chargers offense overall could struggle with the loss of their leading playmaker, though. When it comes to the receivers, I would favor Benjamin. Even so, do not expect much more production from him than what I expected before Allen's injury. He'll draw extra coverage and those additional targets may not translate to improved production. 

I would consider Tyrell Williams as a great best-ball guy with a lot of deep patterns, but I do not expect Inman to do more than he did a year ago when he had 63 targets, 35 receptions for 486 yards, and 3 touchdowns. 

Andy Hicks: We've seen Dontrelle Inman's limitations in the past so it would be a surprise if he broke out in any meaningful way. Williams has the upside, but I'm not sure if we'll see it on a week-to-week basis.

Travis Benjamin will be slightly more valuable than he was during August drafts, but isn't a No.1 receiver by any stretch of the imagination. Hunter Henry is a rookie and will play like one.

I'm with Chad on Antonio Gates, he's beginning to look his age or older. The only player earning significantly more value in the passing game is who the others alluded to, Danny Woodhead.

But I'm in agreement with Matt about the ground game. Allen's loss and the need to shift Woodhead to the slot more often should help both Woodhead and Gordon who recorded 33 receptions as a rookie and will be more useful as a runner.

It will be up to the Chargers offensive minds to be imaginative with their coaching schemes and utilize the abilities of their best players. If they can design plays where both Woodhead and Gordon on the field, then Rivers should be able to hit the open guy with regularity or allow Gordon to run into space.


The Factory of Sadness

Robert Griffin III III was the 25th starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns since the team chose Tim Couch over Donovan McNabb. Earlier this summer, Sigmund Bloom posed the question to Jene Bramel if he believed Griffin would last the entire season. Bramel interrupted with an immediate "No".

It was the first time we've heard Bramel interrupt Bloom in mid-sentence. Let's discuss the Factory of Sadness that has been the Cleveland Browns organization and what it means for those with shares of Browns players:

  • What's the long-term fantasy outlook for Griffin? If he doesn't return midseason, do you still consider him a buy-low in dynasty leagues?
  • As for this year, what do you think of Josh McCown as a fantasy prospect
  • Does McCown's presence alter your view of the Browns running backs for fantasy?
  • If you had a strong view on Josh Gordon during the preseason, does McCown's insertion into the lineup change your original stance?

Where do you stand?

Adam Harstad: I’m a huge Robert Griffin III III fan. I’m a huge fan of buying injured players in dynasty. I held him as a dead roster spot on one of my teams all through last year just waiting to see where he’d land in free agency and what he’d do once he got there.

Griffin is my first cut this week as I make my waiver claims. I really hope he gets some breaks and turns his career around, but I’m not going to let him be a roster albatross for another year or more while I wait.

Jason Wood: This is a crushing blow to RGIII's future. At this point, I honestly can't see a team looking at him as their starter. He'll need to land somewhere and spend some time as a backup. He obviously has the talent to be a productive starter in the league, but I don't think he'll get that chance again unless he excels as a multi-week injury fill-in first. I never considered him a buy-low, so no change to my outlook at this point.

McCown had a stretch of about 8 games in Chicago that forever altered his perception, but he's got a long career track record otherwise that says he's a limited, and largely ineffective fantasy signal caller. Unless you're in a 2QB league or very deep 1QB (e.g., 16-teamer), McCown is a non-factor.

McCown's presence really takes the wind out of Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon's sails, in my view. Coleman and Gordon's losses are Duke Johnson Jr and Gary Barnidge's gains. McCown will be more of a game manager and won't hesitate to check down.

This could cement Barnidge as a Top-10 fantasy TE and Johnson as a viable RB2 in PPR formats.

That said -- I also think McCown under center further assures this Browns offense will remain near the bottom of the league. It's very hard to imagine a scenario where Cleveland is able to run their optimal game script. I don't see Cleveland playing with the lead very often which means Isaiah Crowell is going to struggle to see 15-20 touches per game -- even if Hue Jackson wants it that way.

I was lukewarm on Gordon but saw the appeal of drafting him as a high-upside WR3 because of his Top-5 ceiling. I think you can safely take the ceiling away and you're left with a guy who has one great season under his belt, and otherwise hasn't done much. You'll be lucky to get WR3 value from Gordon at this point; unfortunately.

Waldman: As a Browns fan, I'm still mourning the remote hope—and I mean a glimmer—for a quick turnaround that Griffin represented as Hue Jackson's reclamation project so I'm not going to write much. Well, other than I'm available for consultation on rookie prospects at the quarterback position, Cleveland. 

I agree with Wood about Griffin's long-term outlook unless he doesn't need the surgery after 5-6 weeks and he can return. Even so, I saw this experiment as a project of 2-3 years with Hue Jackson giving Griffin some leeway to develop in this offense. The last time we saw a reclamation project of this magnitude that included these career highs and lows, it was Jim Plunkett and a fair bit of our staff wasn't even born yet.

I'm still optimistic about McCown and the passing game as a low-end fantasy value. Note that I still think there's value to mine. McCown reads the middle of the field better than Gordon at this stage of their careers and it might benefit Corey Coleman and will definitely benefit Josh Gordon

Griffin missed a lot of reads in the middle of the field during the preseason and his timing with reads that he recognized was still shaky. Even if McCown isn't surprisingly good, if Gordon was great with Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer, I'm still optimistic that he'll deliver no worse than WR2 production.

Chad Parsons: Griffin was already a flyer-level dynasty asset. He is a hold in QB-premium formats, but a drop in any other dynasty or redraft league format. Josh McCown is an upgrade for the downfield weapons in Cleveland.

While McCown has been prone to turnovers over his career, 2013 and 2015 were stronger seasons. At a minimum, McCown is an empowered downfield risk-taker, matching well with Corey Coleman, Terrelle Pryor, and hopefully soon, Josh Gordon.

McCown’s presence does not influence my valuation on either Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson Jr in the backfield. I was lower on Johnson than the consensus and the Week 1 split showed that Crowell was the preferred option despite Cleveland trailing most of the game only furthered the separation between the two backs on my board.

Andy Hicks: You have to question where Griffin will get his next chance. The Cleveland Browns are the express lane for free agents leaving the NFL. He will never get another opportunity handed to him and will have to have the humility to compete for backup roles on desperate franchises.

The NFL is a youth-oriented league and has-beens rarely get another chance. It is possible he starts another NFL game, but I would dump him in the vast majority of dynasty leagues without hesitation.

Even if he does come back this season, and that is doubtful, Cleveland will probably want a decent look at Cody Kessler first before they invest another first-round pick on a quarterback.

Let's face facts about McCown: He is the perfect backup for an NFL franchise and he will tutor a young QB and spark an offense for a short period of time. But he is 37 years-old and never was a great player. He's been to more clubs than Justin Bieber and while the perfect No. 2, he offers limited fantasy appeal.

He will be a starting QB until either Cody Kessler is ready or if by some miracle Robert Griffin III comes back this year. If he plays the whole season, he won't offer anything more than mediocre stats.

I had limited expectations for Gordon due to the expected struggles of the team. Also, Gordon's penchant for stupid decision making leaves little room to chance for a fantasy draft pick.

If anything, the move to a more experienced QB like McCown may improve his status slightly, but anyone expecting stats similar to his breakout year in 2013 will be disappointed.

This team is years away from producing a good team and the investment in drafts for the next two years will take years of stability to bear fruit. Gordon probably won't be there in two years time.

The injury and McCown's insertion into the lineup doesn't change my outlook on the ground game. Both Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr will share time and get in each other's way for fantasy owners.

If by any chance the Browns have a chance to run the game out, then they could be useful, but how many games will that be? It is expected that the Browns will be chasing in most games and opposing running games will be dominant.

Stephen Holloway: Cleveland is going to be in a tough spot and even though there is no chance that they throw in the towel and begin playing for the top pick a year from now, they will likely lose many games. As such, they will be playing for the future and that likely means Griffin is done. I would not be buying him in dynasty. I agree totally with Adam and would drop him this week.

Griffin was valued more this season because of the weapons that the Browns have and not due to expectations that he would completely turn around his play. I expect that McCown could be a target, particularly in two-quarterback leagues. However, I will not be surprised if the Brown's season goes completely off the tracks and they decide to give the rookie Cody Kessler a chance to see if he has a chance to be their quarterback going forward.

McCown may further depress Gordon's value after the receiver's return from suspension. Gordon is obviously talented, but the missed games and the potential to miss more games with another hiccup have kept my expectations lower than most for him. I do think that Barnidge will be more productive with McCown, but the potential for another quarterback change makes his ceiling lower. 

There is no change for me going forward on the Browns' running backs. Isaiah Crowell looks like an average or below NFL talent that can stand up to lots of carries but has little to show for it besides accumulated stats. Duke Johnson Jr is a much better receiving back and also has the shiftiness in space to make things happen. If the team continues to heavily involve Crowell, it will limit Johnson.


Playing the Waiver Wire

Discuss strategic tips you give fantasy owners about playing the waiver wire. By all means, bring up whatever comes to mind but here are some ideas to get the juices flowing:

  • Do you have strategies for percentages of budgets to bid on players and how do you arrive at those percentages?
  • Are there positions that you aggressively target as opposed to others?
  • Is your waiver wire strategy in any way integrated into your draft strategy?
  • How does the waiver wire influence your approach to trades?

Drop some knowledge on us.

Jason Wood: The biggest piece of advice we need to impart to our readers is KNOW YOUR LEAGUE. Every league is different and studying historic bidding patterns will go a long way to successfully navigating the free agency process.

I don't have hard and fast percentages but instead, try to prioritize players and place bids that I believe give me a historically high rate of winning said player. I also think you need to factor scarcity premium.

A player like Josh McCown is worth infinitely more in a 14-team Superflex league than he would be in a standard 10-teamer. I wouldn't bid on McCown in the latter, but would consider 25% of my budget in the former if I was down to a single healthy quarterback. 

Andy Hicks: Every league has a percentage of owners who barely play the waiver wire or only want to get the guy who had one big game. Investing in the waiver wire gives you a significant advantage over other owners.

Many a poor draft can be turned around with skillful waiver wire additions or trading. Your aim should be targeting the guys that are about to go off, not the ones that are more than likely to be one game wonders.

You don't want to get too clinical when doing this or too formulaic. As Jason mentioned, you have to know your league format, rules, and fellow owners.

In most formats, it is obviously the waiver wire running backs that chew up the budget, but if you have flex QB or TE for 1.5 per PPR, then they are worth investing in heavily.  

One thing I would caution people about is wasting your budget unnecessarily. If you really want a player you have to assess how popular he'll be with others. You have to ask yourself if you are spending a significant percentage of your budget on a guy "Is this the player that makes or breaks my fantasy season?"

Jason Wood: I personally think you shouldn't be afraid to bid aggressively in the early going because history tells us that there are always studs who go undrafted. Generally, I have to believe there's a chance that a player will be an every week lineup-changer for me to go heavy in Weeks 1 and 2 of FAAB.

Chad Parsons: I am a forward-thinking waiver wire owner. I am more likely to jump on a player a week early on the chance they are the next week's waiver darling than line up and pay big for a waiver claim.

For example, I picked up Dennis Pitta in plenty of leagues during FCFS waivers last week for free, now there will be multiple bids in for Pitta this week.

Andy Hicks: Chad mentioned something that's worth emphasizing even if he may fully not agree with me. There are positions where you shouldn't be spending a cent.

The running backs are key, but getting a wide receiver or tight End by analyzing his target data before they turn it into stats can save you a lot of money. This sounds a lot like Chad's strategy, too. 

Chad Parsons: Actually, I rarely bid more than 25 percent for a single player, relating back to my first point of being proactive. If my roster back-end is strong enough, I will shop a player or two as an upgrade to another owner before outright dropping them for a waiver pickup. In general, I spend earlier in the season rather than later as a pickup can help more weeks.

Chris Feery: As the others have mentioned, it all comes down to knowing your league and understanding where the value is to be had. If you’re high on a player that you know will also be on the radar of other owners in your league, expect to pay up if you have your heart set on them, but don’t get into an unnecessary bidding war just to secure that player’s services. You should always have a ballpark value of what that player is worth to you and stick to your guns so you don’t overspend.  

Jason Wood: One key issue we haven't discussed is with FAAB. Does the league in question allow $0 bids?

I'm against $0 bids for the record, but if your league allows them, there's no reason to ever pay up for defenses or kickers. In 12-team leagues (or smaller), it's rare that you'll be spending up for a quarterback because there are usually a handful of starters on waivers at any given time. The key positions are the skill positions -- no different than how we prioritize picks on draft day.

Matt Waldman: Great points by everyone. Let's move to waivers, draft strategy, and trade strategies. I can say without a doubt that the popularity of positions on the waiver wire influences the way I draft in the middle and late rounds.

I like to load up on running backs because it's the most difficult and costly position to acquire early in the year. Whereas I'm far more confident that I can find a usable tight end or wide receiver throughout the year. It's also easier to trade for a quarterback and I'd rather save my money so I can make a big investment at some point if needed.  

Jason Wood: I also do the same to an extent. I believe in filling your bench (in the late rounds of your draft) with high risk/high reward lottery tickets. Ideally, I'll draft guys that could surprise but if they don't, I will have ZERO apprehension about cutting them loose for a high priority waiver claim.

As for trade strategies, free agent scarcity dictates the natural supply/demand of a trade market. If it's a shallow league, I'm more inclined to give up two or three for one in a trade because the replacement value on waivers isn't all that problematic. In tighter/deeper leagues, where waivers won't give you a viable starting option, you have to be more disciplined in trading need for need and generally sticking to even-numbered trades (e.g., 1 for 1 or 2 for 2).

Andy Hicks: As Jason mentioned, your draft should allow you a few lottery tickets that may or may not come off, but generally once the season kicks in injuries or poor performing players need to be shifted out with better players.  As for trades, if the waiver wire favors worst to first, then you may have to be aggressive to move up. If Blind Bidding is the method of choice then trading won't be as vital.

Chris Feery: I think Jason nailed it on the scarcity aspect being the biggest driver of an active or inactive trade market. I’ve always leaned towards building my team through the draft and waiver process, but I won’t turn my nose up at an offer that looks like a tremendous value.


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