We're at the midpoint of the fantasy football's regular season. Let's begin by taking stock of our pre-draft calls as they stand today. Then, let's examine players who you expect to rebound from a tough first half or slide in the second half. We'll end this session with a game of True-False.
Let the fun and games commence.
Best and Worst Pre-Draft Calls
It's always entertaining to examine our pre-draft views on players. It's time for a mid-season reckoning:
- List one player you recommended higher than the consensus who is working out.
- List one player you recommended higher than the consensus who is struggling (missing time doesn't count).
- List one player you dissuaded your readers from taking who is working out.
- List one player you dissuaded your readers from taking who is struggling.
Let's conduct a little group therapy.
Matt Waldman: Which notable call was higher than the consensus and hasn't panned out thus far?
Daniel Simpkins: Randall Cobb. I really thought that having Jordy Nelson and the offensive line healthy would help Cobb rebound. I didn’t count on Rodgers playing at a sub-par level. I still think there’s a chance for course correction. Yet, so far, this seems to have been a terrible call on my part.
Chad Parsons: Devin Funchess. I projected a true 1-2 punch with Kelvin Benjamin in Carolina, but Funchess is still in low snap-count mode. He's only making plays occasionally. Funchess is not even on the WR3/4 radar weekly, which I thought was well within reach in Year Two. As a 22-year-old positional convert, Funchess is proving that he needs more time to refine his game.
Chris Kuczynski: I thought Rishard Mathews was a sneaky sleeper. I picked him up late in every one of my leagues. I wouldn't go as far as saying he's not worthy of a roster spot, but I've only started him two different times this season as a desperation play. What he showed in Miami last year was enough to convince me he'd be the No.1 option in Tennessee. To be fair, no one else has run away with that role either, so maybe the jury is still out.
Jeff Haseley: Golden Tate is coming off a big Week 6, but the first quarter of the season, he was far from resourceful. I heard all of the talk of Marvin Jones Jr playing himself into the WR1 role, but Tate's back-to-back 90+ reception seasons had me thinking otherwise. The receiving game in Detroit is one to exploit, so I was all-in on it being a position to target. My fault was placing Tate ahead of Marvin Jones Jr in ADP.
Chris Feery: My preseason love for Jeremy Maclin was misplaced, and I’m not completely sold on the fact that he’ll turn it around either. I viewed the Chiefs passing attack as a potential sleeper heading into the year because I thought they finally had the weapons to spread it out enough. While the running game continues to be one of the better units in the league, the passing game remains firmly entrenched in its conservative ways. There may be a few big games in Maclin’s future, but I’m not seeing how he ends the season with the production I was anticipating.
Matt Waldman: Which notable preseason call is working out for you guys?
Chad Parsons: I was close to all-in on Jordan Howard. I had little faith in Jeremy Langford as the incumbent Chicago starter and Howard was one of the few prototypical-sized, three-down backs of the 2016 draft class. The early injury to Langford certainly accelerated the process, but Howard was a few weeks from overtaking Langford for the majority of snaps either way. A quick honorable mention to Will Fuller V. He was a glaring value by my board (had him No.4 overall for dynasty rookie drafts) and exceeded even my early-season expectations.
Chris Kuczynski: The one I'm pretty proud about is being the only staff member to mention Spencer Ware as a Deep Sleeper in our July Overvalue/Value/Sleeper article series. I didn't mention him again in late August because his ADP skyrocketed with the news of Charles not being ready for the start of the season. I had mentioned Charles' injury history and how effective Ware was as a physical runner compared to Charles' and West's finesse, and how he could still carve out a role when Charles is healthy. He exceeded my expectations and has shown to be an all around back that can play 3 downs. I believe he will be a big part of the committee even when Charles is 100 percent.
Derek Carr will be my honorable mention. Many experts thought the Raiders would take a step forward this year but it was with respect to team wins rather than reflecting in fantasy football rankings. Their offense has at least improved from last season and that has been all due to Carr's progression. The way he has played he is a sure fire top 8 QB and he was available in drafts in the 10th round or later.
Chris Feery: I was quite high on DeMarco Murray in the preseason, and he has not disappointed thus far. The bulk of my optimism centered on the fact that he simply had a poor fit in Philadelphia, and I saw him as a back that still had plenty in the tank left to thrive in the correct situation. That’s proven to be prescient thus far. We’ll have to wait and see how the remainder of 2016 plays out.
Jeff Haseley: I was relatively high on Martellus Bennett. I liked the possibility of New England having a dual threat at tight end, especially with Dion Lewis being out of the picture. My thought process was the situation in New England could succeed with a capable second tight end, but also the fact that Bennett is a former 90-catch player who is entering one of the better offenses in the league. The recipe for success was ripe for Bennett to thrive. So far, he has been a positive addition to the Patriots, with or without Rob Gronkowski on the field.
Daniel Simpkins: I wrote this Faceoff where I detailed why I thought Matt Ryan was being dismissed by owners prematurely. However, I will admit that even I didn’t expect him to be QB1 headed into week seven.
Matt Waldman: I was with Kuczynski and Hasley on Ware and Bennett. I was hopeful about Bennett, but I didn't have the guts to place him as high as Feery. So who did you dissuade readers from drafting who is struggling?
Jeff Haseley: DeVante Parker. I have not been a fan of Parker's inability to perform well against press coverage. I recommended people to fade him at his draft ADP, and possibly altogether. If he received more snaps in the slot, I'd have a longer leash on his ability to sustain success, but the presence of Jarvis Landry is keeping Parker from occupying that role. I'm glad I avoided him.
Daniel Simpkins: Thomas Rawls is someone I warned people to stay away from. I do not own a single share of his in any of my redraft leagues or dynasty leagues. I was leery of him in light of Michael being there, as well as Rawls coming back from a serious injury. Rawls wasn’t producing on the same level as Michael even before suffering his latest injury. Upon his return, I don’t think Michael will cede more than a few touches a game to Rawls at this point.
Chris Kuczynski: I'll echo Daniel's thoughts on Rawls. I wanted absolutely no part of him this season. In one league, I even passed on him two rounds later than his ADP. The reasons were his very limited resume. Last season's performance was misleading because of two amazing performances.
His injury issues and the emergence of Christine Michael sealed the deal for me. And to reiterate what Daniel said, he wasn't that great before this latest injury. When he comes back several weeks from now, it is hard to expect much more than a change of pace role.
Chad Parsons: Julius Thomas and Allen Hurns. I projected a big regression for the Jacksonville offense through the air. I thought Allen Robinson was the most insulated to retain a good chunk of his 2015 production, but ancillary pieces like Thomas and Hurns were on the hot seat to underwhelm. Marqise Lee is back in the mix plus Blake Bortles is making poor decisions and he has been inaccurate on a number of throws to contribute to the duo's slow start.
Chris Feery: I was against DeAndre Hopkins status as a Top-5 pick in the preseason, and that’s worked out well thus far. My take on his prospects for 2016 was not an indictment of his outstanding talent, but rather a concern for the Texans offense as a whole. I was not optimistic about the club handing the keys to the offense over to Brock Osweiler, and that’s proven to be on the money so far.
Matt Waldman: If I knew what I know about Bortles' offseason I would have been off that bandwagon, too. I think Feery's call on Hopkins was a strong one because it was easy to consider Hopkins QB-proof to some extent. What that may tell us is that Brian Hoyer is not a good starting quarterback, but he's not necessarily a bad quarterback if you get my drift.
So...who did you tell readers to avoid only to watch them become good fantasy options?
Chris Kuczynski: I missed badly with Demarco Murray. Not only did I mention him before the season as overvalued, I even held that same opinion after two weeks of solid production. I thought what we saw in Philly was a glimpse of what was to come and that 2014 season in Dallas was more like Chris Johnson's 2000-yard outlier. On the contrary, he seems like a great fit in this offense and Derrick Henry has not really threatened his starting spot at all.
Jeff Haseley: I was also against DeMarco Murray for most of the draft season and it wasn't until well into preseason when I started to change my tune on him. The change wasn't loud enough and I was too late to that party. Murray is definitely someone that I devalued and I couldn't bring it upon myself to take him at ADP when I thought Derrick Henry would eventually be the player to own in the Tennessee backfield.
Daniel Simpkins: Matt Jones is someone I saw as an average talent who would be easily replaced if he struggled in this offense. That didn’t materialize this season and Jones has been a solid fantasy producer. While I’m still not a fan of Jones in dynasty leagues, I acknowledge I was very wrong about his 2016 outlook.
Chad Parsons: Devonta Freeman. While I got the Tevin Coleman uptick call correct, I did not imagine Atlanta would support multiple top running backs. Freeman has been the interior runner, while Coleman the movable chess piece. An injury to one would create a top-3 option with the other, but Freeman is producing more than I expected as Atlanta is one of the top offenses in the NFL.
Chris Feery: Similar to Chad, I was not particularly sold on Devonta Freeman heading into the season. The signs were pointing to an RBBC with Tevin Coleman as 2016 moved along, but I didn’t realize that would result in both of them being as productive as they’ve been.
Matt Waldman: Besides Jimmy Graham and Steve Smith, who I had no faith in their recuperative powers, I didn't expect Dak Prescott to play this well and that's an understatement. I thought he was an overrated prospect and labeled him as such in the 2016 RSP. I was expecting Terrance West to revert to knucklehead behavior on the field and it hasn't happened (I'm still betting on Kenneth Dixon by season's end). And, after three years of recommending Kenny Britt as a late-round option with WR2 potential, I gave up on him this summer. Now he's WR14.
Which player from each position group is most likely to rebound from his slow start to a starter in leagues with lineups of 1 QB/2RB/3WR/1TE?
- QBs: Aaron Rodgers (QB 13), Eli Manning (QB 14), Blake Bortles (QB 17), Russell Wilson (QB 25) or Carson Palmer (QB 29).
- RBs: Jeremy Hill (RB 25), Eddie Lacy (RB 32), Latavius Murray (RB 31), or Jonathan Stewart (RB 41).
- WRs: Randall Cobb (WR 47), Golden Tate (WR 49), Allen Hurns (WR 51), or Jeremy Maclin (WR 54).
- TEs: Gary Barnidge (TE 17), Jason Witten (TE 20), Julius Thomas (TE 25), or Antonio Gates (TE 29).
Lay'em on me...
Chris Kuczynski: I would have chosen Aaron Rodgers in a vacuum, but the fact that he is already QB 13, he doesn't have a very steep hill to climb to get in the top 12—He will easily get that. Additionally, he will have to pass even more with the injuries to his running backs.
Russell Wilson will be the most improved from this group. He's had injury issues that have limited his rushing and scrambling ability. The offense as a whole has nowhere to go but up. Eli might be good as a spot starter based on match up (especially with Odell Beckham Jr Jr starting to play at a high level), but Bortles and Palmer can safely sit on your bench until (if) they prove to be startable.
Dave Larkin: It has to be Russell Wilson. Despite the numbers not necessarily being there so far, Wilson has played at a high level despite having to cope with offensive line headaches. The Seahawks turned from a mediocre offense at midseason last year to being one of the top passing attacks in the league. Once he gets over his injury issues fully, he should be an every-week QB1 with elite upside.
Chris Feery: From the quarterbacks, I’ll cast my vote for Russell Wilson as well. Quite simply, the Seahawks seem like the most likely team to improve as the season moves along, and that should coincide with Wilson returning to full strength. As his knee and ankle injuries move further into the rearview mirror, it’s not hard to envision him returning to the dual-threat form we were all anticipating at the start of 2016. A full-strength Wilson offers tremendous upside for the latter part of the season.
Chad Parsons: Russell Wilson is also my bet of the quarterback quintet. Wilson was hobbled by lower body injuries early in the season, which not only saps his rushing production but also his downfield play-making when protection breaks down. Jimmy Graham's rise back to elite status among tight ends is a significant boost. Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, and Carson Palmer are all showing poor enough decision-making to have pause projecting a sharp turnaround this season.
Daniel Simpkins: Russell Wilson is the slam dunk choice here. Injuries and game scripts have conspired to hold him back statistically so far. I’m expecting a late-season surge that tends to be his fantasy modus operandi from year-to-year.
Dave Larkin: It might surprise some, but I will pick Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers showed their intentions pretty clearly against the Saints when it came to running the ball. Cam Newton's traditional rushing attempts were cast aside in favor of Stewart's powerful downhill style. It is too soon to say the team has completely abandoned any runs for Newton, but the concussion will definitely make them think twice. Stewart got the looks at the goal line this past week, and that could continue down the stretch. Missing time is the only reason he finds himself at RB41, but he could be a top-12 back by season's end.
Chris Feery: I agree with Dave that Jonathan Stewart is the most likely to rebound from his slow start. I’ll echo the sentiments that the Panthers will be leaning on him more for goal line duties. Beyond that, he’s in line to receive the bulk of the work in the Panthers backfield as the production of his replacements left a lot to be desired while he was on the sidelines.
Chris Kuczynski: Stewart is really the only choice here. His ranking is a direct reflection of missing 4 games, but he came back really strong this past week and breathed life into a fairly ineffective run game. The rest of the former committee was a healthy scratch (CAP) or barely touched the ball (Whittaker). Hill is on the wrong side of a committee and is not receiving enough volume, Lacy has a significant injury but wasn't that great when healthy. Murray is not only injured but also part of a three-player committee that has limited him to under 15 touches even when healthy.
Matt Waldman: Wow, the only choice? I suppose with the timing of the Lacy news after I asked this question, it didn't help matters but I thought Hill was a reasonably compelling choice here...
Daniel Simpkins: Not for me. Stewart is the most likely of this group to get back on track. The Panthers seem to have partially learned their lesson when it comes to putting Cam at risk in goal line situations. Stewart got a lot more work there this past Sunday than he had previously. The refrain for Stewart, as it always seems to be, is JUST STAY HEALTHY!
Chad Parsons: Of those options, I would also bet on Jonathan Stewart. The other three have been relatively low snap players this season, healthy or not. Stewart should have a heavy majority of the work in Carolina's backfield and with Cam Newton's recent injuries, Stewart *should* see more goal line chances if Carolina is interested in preserving their franchise quarterback.
Matt Waldman: I never thought I'd see the day that the oft-injured Stewart would earn a unanimous vote. I'm still thinking Hill potentially has something to say about this, but it's nice to see Stewart get some love here—even if it's because I unintentionally rigged the pool so the choices weren't as even as I initially thought.
Chris Feery: Golden Tate finally had a breakout game last week, and that should portend a heavier involvement in the Lions passing game from here on out. He’s been bypassed by Marvin Jones Jr as Matthew Stafford’s preferred target, but opponents are wise to that fact and paying extra attention to Jones. That points to a more even distribution of targets, and that should coincide with Tate finally being able to kick it into gear for the 2016 season.
Matt Waldman: I actually wonder if Jones isn't hindered by a foot injury a little more than he and the Lions are letting one. I have no proof, just something to put out there. If it has wheels, Tate could be in for a nice rebound.
Chris Kuczynski: Tate has finally shown signs of life and will try to reclaim his position as WR 1a/1b with Marvin Jones Jr who has cooled down significantly in recent weeks, but one game is hard to go off of for Tate. I will go with Randall Cobb. He has been getting a decent volume of targets, and the Packers will be without much of a running game, so I expect them to try to get creative in the passing game and get Cobb the ball in space.
The Jaguars offense has played poorly as a whole, so that has limited Hurns' production. As far as the Chiefs, they are focusing their scheme all around the run game so weapons like Travis Kelce and Maclin are not getting nearly enough targets. With Alex Smith at quarterback who does just enough, averaging 250 yards and 1 TD per game, I wouldn't expect these numbers to go up significantly.
Dave Larkin: None of these players really stand out to me, but if I had to pick one I would go with Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs offense still relies heavily on his precision route-running and hands to succeed, and they are entering a nice stretch of games. In PPR leagues he is especially appealing as a high-upside option in the coming weeks.
Daniel Simpkins: Surprisingly, it’s been Aaron Rodgers who hasn’t been crisp to date, not his teammates. Rodgers is not a slacker; he will put in the extra work to clean up his mistakes. When he begins to play better, it will lift all the other pieces of the offense, including Randall Cobb.
Daniel Simpkins: I’ll select Barnidge with the idea that Cody Kessler does not remain the starting quarterback and that Josh McCown will eventually be back to take over. If he can get back in the lineup, we can have confidence that he will target Barnidge more often and in more favorable situations than Kessler could provide.
Chris Kuczynski: I really don't like any of these options...
Matt Waldman: Welcome to the real world!
Chris Kuczynski: For sure! I guess I will go with Barnidge. As Daniel said, you have to think Josh McCown takes back the starting job when healthy which benefits Barnidge more than any other player on this offense.
Witten is serviceable, but if he's not putting up numbers with the way Dak Prescott is playing and with Dez Bryant banged up, I'm not sure his numbers will ever improve. Thomas and Gates should be far away from your lineups.
Chris Feery: I’ll go slightly against the grain at tight end and look towards Julius Thomas as the rebound selection from the four options. If we rewind to the preseason, the Jaguars were somewhat of an "it" team that nice things were expected from.
While they haven’t had lift-off offensively, that could still be on the docket. The club’s riding a two-game winning streak and facing off with the Raiders on Sunday, and that could be just the game to get the passing attack moving. Thomas should be a big red zone target for Blake Bortles if the offense awakens as anticipated.
Dave Larkin: If you force me to pick one of these players...
Matt Waldman: I have no plans to take a Trans-Atlantic voyage, but...
Dave Larkin: I would go with Gary Barnidge. The Browns won't win many games, but Barnidge has shown his connection with Josh McCown is strong. The veteran signal caller should return to the lineup sooner rather than later, and Barnidge could be the main beneficiary and rise to TE1 status.
Matt Waldman: If you're keeping score at home, it's Wilson, Stewart, Cobb, and Barnidge in a landslide.
Which player from each position group is most likely to slide from his starter-caliber play to a borderline fantasy backup or worse in leagues with lineups of 1 QB/2RB/3WR/1TE?
- QB: Matt Ryan (QB 1), Matthew Stafford (QB 4), Marcus Mariota (QB 8), or Dak Prescott (QB 9)?
- RB: Tevin Coleman (RB 8), Spencer Ware (RB 9), Christine Michael (RB 12), Isaiah Crowell (RB 13) or Terrance West (RB 18)?
- WR: Marvin Jones Jr (WR 3), Terrelle Pryor (WR 7), Kenny Britt (WR 14), Sammie Coates Jr (WR 21), or Tyrell Williams (WR 24)?
- TE: Martellus Bennett (TE 2), Hunter Henry (TE 3), Zach Miller (TE 4), or Jack Doyle (TE 9)?
Sock it to me...
Matt Waldman: QBs...
Dave Larkin: Marcus Mariota has certainly shown the ability to string together good series in games, but the overall consistency hasn't been there. The Titans schedule looks quite favorable for the remainder of the season, but I still wonder how effective this entire offense will be long-term. The rushing upside will always give him a slight edge over fellow quarterbacks, but my reservations lie more in coaching and surrounding talent than the player himself.
Alex Miglio: Matt Ryan has been lights out this season, and it will be tough to hang onto the top fantasy spot. Having Julio Jones helps. It's tough to slide from QB1 all the way to borderline starter, though, so my pick is Marcus Mariota. (Incidentally, Ryan's value may not ever be higher; selling high might yield some great returns.)
The second-year starter has had a huge couple of weeks that has vaulted him into the top 10. But he looked downright awful before his crack at the woeful Miami Dolphins defense a couple of weeks ago, and his schedule isn't always going to be so friendly. Mariota's rushing ability will give him a higher floor than most other quarterbacks, but I expect a ton of variance from him the rest of the way.
Jeff Hasley: My vote also goes to Marcus Mariota by virtue of the other three being stronger, not necessarily Mariota being a weak quarterback. Mariota brings rushing yards to the table and he's getting more comfortable with his ability to succeed as a rushing quarterback. If he can continue to keep running and have a decent box score of passing stats, he'll stay afloat in the Top 12. The downside is that Tennessee doesn't have a true stud receiver to consistently rely on, therefore making Mariota's job more difficult to reach the heights of the other named quarterbacks on this list.
Chris Feery: I’ll vote for Mariota as the most likely regression candidate. While he seems to be coming into his own, Chris makes an excellent point: he’s simply too hot and cold to rely on. That will cause his overall production to level out as we move along, but he still makes for a fine backup quarterback for fantasy purposes.
Daniel Simpkins: Mariota is the most likely to regress statistically from this group. While the Titans have been able to beat up on some of the other tin can teams on the schedule, they won’t do the same to their upcoming opponents—in particular, the Packers, Broncos, and Chiefs.
Chris Kuczynski: Matt Ryan seems matchup-proof, so it's really hard to bet against him from here on out. He should stay top-5 all year.
The only thing that scares me about Dak is the unpredictability of Jerry Jones and his support for Tony Romo. If everyone is thinking clearly and Dak stays the starter, he should be worthy of your lineup most weeks.
Mariota is very hard to pin down because of how variable his week-to-week production is. He threw for 3 TDs each of the last two weeks against the Dolphins and Browns with a decent amount of rushing yards, but he also had 3 games with less than 215 yards passing, and against Oakland's horrible defense he had no TDs and was responsible for four turnovers. He might be too hot and cold to reliably start every week, but he's intriguing based on the matchups. Ultimately it's hard to imagine him being in the top 12 though.
Alex Miglio: It's tempting to put Spencer Ware here with Jamaal Charles starting to regain his form. But it's likely he will still be a viable starter in a split carry situation. Terrance West, however, is on borrowed time. He is currently Baltimore's workhorse, but his efficiency was abysmal last week. We don't know if he will last on that many touches each week, either.
Jeff Haseley: Isaiah Crowell is faced with being the starting running back on a team that has not won a single game yet. The odds suggest Cleveland will be forced to pass to stay in the game, thus limiting Crowell's ability to produce. The majority of his good games have come with first half success. If he can't get that, there's little chance of him having a fantasy relevant game. Perhaps the return of Josh McCown will help his situation, but a last-place team isn't a good place to be in for a starting running back.
Chris Feery: Isaiah Crowell is trending downwards, and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which he turns it around. The Browns are a poor football team. As the losses continue to mount up, it’s hard to be optimistic about a running game for a team that will likely be coming from behind the majority of the time.
Daniel Simpkins: I’m picking Spencer Ware, but not for talent reasons. I only selected Ware because I believe that Charles’ workload is going to keep increasing and cut into his.
Dave Larkin: Christine Michael is the name that stands out to me here, purely because I am not ready to write off Thomas Rawls yet. The Seahawks have leaned on Michael for the first few weeks, but he has never had to shoulder a load before like he has this season. The concern is he might break down, but either way, the Seahawks are a better team with both backs available. Rawls' return date should fall around Week 8. If he can demonstrate the skill he so often showed off last year, Michael may struggle to keep the stranglehold on touches.
Chris Kuczynski: Isaiah Crowell is the easy choice here. He has produced 22 and 16 yards the last two weeks for less than 2 yards per carry so he is trending in the wrong direction. His ranking is inflated by two games over 100 yards and a TD.
I feel great about Coleman. He doesn't belong on the list because his situation hasn't changed. Although it's a 50/50 split with Freeman, there will always be some volume for him.
Ware, Michael, and West might end up in committees but all have shown feature back abilities, so their inclusion on this list is more related to fewer opportunities moving forward, but all of them are too good to receive less than 50 percent of the touches.
Waldman: Coleman scares me because his volume is manufactured and Devonta Freeman's presence as a reliable inside runner opens things up for Coleman more than I think people want to admit. Coleman has improved enough that I think he could have some big games, but if he can't convert third downs in short yardage, he'll see fewer reps than Freeman because the offense will be off the field more often. But I'll agree with Alex about West. I think it will take 3-4 weeks, but Dixon will a fantasy case of "the last owner to pick him up" will be the winner. f
Chris Kuczynski: Of this list, I think Jones and Pryor are the only safe bets to be solid fantasy starters all year. It's hard to imagine either of them dropping below the top 25 among WRs. I could see both taking somewhat of a hit, though. Golden Tate showing signs of life and Coleman eventually coming back (also, it's the Browns).
I'm actually shocked that Tyrell Williams is ranked this high. His only noteworthy game is 117 yards and a TD against the Raiders last ranked defense. Benjamin and Hunter Henry should be featured more than him, and as we've seen it's hard to predict week-to-week because even Inman had a 100-yard game.
Kenny Britt had one exceptional game this week that I think will end up being an outlier, along with a few other decent games earlier in the season. I will give him a pass because he has very little competition for targets and with Gurley being the focus of every defense, the Rams offense should be able to get 250 yards through the air most weeks, so Britt will be serviceable, but certainly not in the top-15 range.
Daniel Simpkins: I’ll also go with Kenny Britt. I don’t have confidence in Case Keenum playing well enough to maintain his current production. Britt is finally living up to a sliver of the hype that made the Titans want to take him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. However, on a squad where even the supremely talented Todd Gurley is struggling to produce, I don’t see Britt as being a sustainable weekly starter.
Jeff Haseley: My pick is Sammie Coates Jr if Terrelle Pryor's hamstring injury won't keep him shelved. Coates found some success with Ben Roethlisberger, but even that was hit and miss, boiling down to one big game in Week 5 against the Jets. Martavis Bryant thrived with Landry Jones last year, catching three touchdowns in two games, so there is some degree of hope for Coates to find some magic. Keep in mind, he is still dealing with a broken finger that might take another week or two to fully heal. My senses tell me that Coates is too inconsistent, even with Roethlisberger to sustain that same success with his understudy.
Alex Miglio: Touchdowns will regress for Marvin Jones Jr, but he is still a huge part of that Detroit offense. As good as Kenny Britt looked last week, and as much as he is involved in the offense, I just can't bring myself to think he will be a viable starter the rest of the year. Case Keenum is his quarterback, after all.
Chris Feery: I expect Kenny Britt to tail off the most out of the selections offered, and that’s simply because of the erratic play from the Rams quarterback position. While Case Keenum has been serviceable, he can implode at a moment’s notice. Britt is playing quite well and will continue to have his moments, but it’s hard to see him finishing the year at the same pace of production.
Dave Larkin: I agree with Jeff that Sammie Coates Jr has the biggest potential to regress, especially if Ben Roethlisberger's injury is a long-term one. Even with Big Ben throwing him the ball, Coates is far too inconsistent game to game—and that will hurt him. Yes, he has the potential to bust out with a 150-yard game, but how often can you rely on that? I believe he will naturally fall back to the pack as the season wears on.
Matt Waldman: I'm with Dave and Jeff about Coates due to Roethlisberger. I don't think Landry Jones is an accurate vertical thrower and Coates has enough issues tracking less-than-perfect deep targets.
Chris Kuczynski: With Brady back and playing like he hasn't missed a beat, Bennett should remain an every week starter, even with Gronk returning to form.
Hunter Henry looks like the real deal and will likely replace Gates if he hasn't already. He should be the second-most consistent receiver on the Chargers behind Benjamin.
Zach Miller and Jack Doyle seem like injury/bye week filler rather than someone to count on week to week. Miller has gotten an okay number of targets but in 4 games he ended up with less than 40 yards. Doyle has not been very impressive with two games under 10 yards and not much in the way of touchdowns since catching 2 in Week 1. The thing he might have going for him is most of Luck's surrounding cast are hurt behind Hilton, so there are some opportunities there in the short term. I don't think either finish in the top 12.
Alex Miglio: Jack Doyle as a viable starter the entire season? Doubtful. He is more of a product of a lackluster showing at the position in general than a quality tight end option. Doyle averages less than four targets per game, and his fantasy production is largely touchdown-dependent. The position will catch up and boot him from the top 12 soon enough.
Jeff Hasley: All are expected to see equal, if not increased production, but Zach Miller would be my pick here. The injury to Eddie Royal (toe) will likely result in more opportunities for Miller if he is forced to miss a game, if not more. The Bears also have a tough stretch coming up with games against Green Bay and Minnesota. I'd fade Miller at least for the next few games, especially with Cameron Meredith playing well and getting more looks. Alshon Jeffery is also starting to get more involvement. The end result is squeezing Miller out of the team's target share.
Chris Feery: I’ll go with Jack Doyle from the tight end group. The other three choices seem more likely to be viable options in their respective teams passing games as the season moves along. Doyle is a serviceable fill-in option, but it’s hard to envision him as a fantasy starter for the remainder of 2016 due to the Colts offensive challenges.
Daniel Simpkins: Jack Doyle is also my choice. It may take a few weeks, but when Allen is back from his high ankle sprain, I believe Doyle will fade like he did before the injury occurred. Erik Swoope is also talented enough to get some targets while Allen is out and that will cut into Doyle’s bottom line.
Dave Larkin: Hunter Henry strikes me as a candidate to slide back to the pack. The rookie wall is fast approaching, as young players tend to struggle towards Week 10-12 of the NFL season. Henry is a refined route runner with good hands, but he is not an explosive player. Antonio Gates has lost more than a few steps, which should allow defenses to clamp down on the burgeoning partnership between Philip Rivers and his rookie tight end.
True or False
True or False. Explain your reasons:
- Jay Ajayi's 204-yard day is a sign of things to come for fantasy owners.
- Spencer Ware will hold off Jamaal Charles as a viable fantasy starter in two-RB lineups.
- Devontae Booker will finish as a better fantasy option than C.J. Anderson.
- Kenny Britt will finish within 300 yards of his current pace of 1300 yards.
- Dak Prescott will continue performing as a top-12 fantasy QB.
Matt Waldman: Ajayi is just beginning his fantasy rampage...
Chris Feery: False. It was a fantastic day for Ajayi, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and pin unrealistic expectations on him. The Dolphins offense is too inconsistent as a whole, and there’s no guarantee that a healthy Arian Foster won’t cut into his workload. Ajayi is definitely intriguing on a long-term basis, but it would be wise to keep the enthusiasm tempered.
Daniel Simpkins: I’m going to say true here, but with a large caveat. The physical talent has never been the issue with Ajayi. He obviously has more juice than Foster does at this stage of his career. The two problems have been usage and maturity. The usage problem seems to be resolving itself. Adam Gase admitted a couple of weeks ago that his four-headed committee was a mistake. Since that time, we’ve seen Ajayi get more work.
The problem I’m still not sure about is maturity. How Ajayi handled added competition this offseason was poor enough to land him on the inactive list in week one. Has he learned from this mistake? Can he handle the valleys that will invariably come in his career?
It’s easier to do what you need to do to succeed when things are going your way. Adversity is what tests a person’s commitment to their craft. Mental makeup is just as (if not more) important than raw talent.
As we’ve seen with players like Vince Young in the past, you can be immeasurably physically gifted and not have the psyche needed to cope with the stressors of NFL life. Let’s hope that Ajayi has truly learned from his youthful mistake and that he will continue to take nothing for granted going forward.
Chad Parsons: False. I predict we see Arian Foster back as the lead back when fully healed in the coming weeks. Plus, the 2017 and beyond Miami starter is likely not on the roster as of today. The Dolphins-Steelers game was one of the bigger outliers of the season as Miami as struggled up front all season and Pittsburgh had the vibe of not showing up for the game from the kickoff, especially on defense.
Matt Waldman: Kind of hard to show up with Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier couldn't take the field...
Chad Parsons: True...
Matt Waldman: So you're changing your answer?
Chad Parsons: Ha! False.
Alex Miglio: Also false. It was a great game for Ajayi. He has run hard with the opportunity he was given, but the Steelers defense was atrocious, and Arian Foster wasn't all the way back from his injury. We should see a pretty good split of playing time—barring further injury to Foster—in Miami, not to mention the likelihood that the Dolphins offense will have trouble playing like that most of the year.
Jeff Haseley: I'm going to say true, but to an extent and with a condition—if he performs well against Buffalo this week, I'll buy. I'm half bought-in currently. Miami's offensive line is starting to come together and the team is playing well as a whole.
Ajayi is averaging 5.7 YPC on 56 rush attempts. He bought himself another week of high volume carries, even with Arian Foster healthy. I don't see him as a true stud running back, reaching Top-3 heights week-after-week, but he can develop into an every-week fantasy starter if things progress with the team and especially the running game.
Dave Larkin: False. It took a Miami offense unusually committed to the ground game and a perfect game script to concoct the conditions for the 200-yard game. How reproducible is that kind of game? This game for Ajayi could end up being the best game of his career. As a fantasy option, he represents the best bet for production in the Dolphins offense. But as Chris mentioned, Arian Foster will eventually return. With that, Ajayi's upside will be capped. Let us not forget that Miami's offense has been borderline putrid at times this season. Do we really want to put our faith in that unit suddenly becoming a consistent force?
Chris Kuczynski: False. While Ajayi has claimed the lead role in the committee, we shouldn't expect to see another performance anything like this 8.2 yards-per-carry game against the Steelers. Although he was not getting many carries, he rushed 31 times for 118 yards at 3.8 yards per carry leading up to Sunday. This weekend he had 33 and 62-yard runs that made up half of his total yards. Leaving 23 rushes for 109 yards as his remaining total.
Matt Waldman: And 23 carries for 109 yards is bad? Really?
Chris Kuczynski: No, but the main issue is I just don't see Ajayi getting the volume of touches he needs to gain a lot of yards. The run game—and the offense in general—has been very inconsistent and at times downright bad. They will rarely be in a position that allows them to run the ball as often as they did against Pittsburgh. They will be behind more often and will have to throw to catch up. Additionally, Foster is probably not going away. He is not back to full health yet, but when he is he should be in on passing downs, where Ajayi isn't used as much (1 catch for 3 yards on Sunday).
Waldman: I'm going to say true and I'm not giving any conditions. I think Miami has made the necessary adjustments upfront and Ajayi's talent has always been strong. I don't see top-10 production from him every week, but I think he will finish in the top 15-17 by year's end. Ajayi is also an excellent receiver and he'll see more opportunities despite not getting the full workload of passing down opportunities when Foster return.
I think Ajayi needed a kick in the pants that Foster winning the job in camp provided. He responded well enough that I think he's getting a shot to keep the gig. If I recall, a lot of people were optimistic about Miami's offense this year. I was in wait-and-see mode, but I think Ajayi will be a serviceable starter after what I saw from the line play in Cincinnati and now against Pittsburgh.
Dave Larkin: True, and here's why: Spencer Ware is a talented back with more than enough juice to give the Chiefs offense what it needs, namely a dependable threat who will get what is blocked—and sometimes more. Jamaal Charles will need time to regain his form after a long layoff, so it would be unrealistic to expect big things from him too soon. In the meantime—and it could be for the majority of the season—Ware is more than capable of turning his touches into RB2 numbers for us. The Chiefs' schedule looks very favorable down the stretch as well, paving the way for more run-intensive game scripts.
Daniel Simpkins: False. I’m predicting that Charles’ touches will continue to increase on a weekly basis as he eases back into action. I believe it will eventually resolve into a nearly even split in carries. This arrangement would make each back more of a flex option in typical lineups.
Chad Parsons: False. I project Charles returns as at least 50/50 snap share of the Chiefs backfield in the next couple weeks. Ware will still see decent volume but Charles' situational snaps thus far have included goal line and red zone work, which should be concerning to Ware owners. I think the RB20-24 range is about right for the over/under on Ware's weekly projections, with Jamaal Charles in the RB6-12 range most weeks.
Chris Kuczynski: True. I think this will be a committee situation, but Ware is just too good to stay off of the field.The Chiefs should try to keep Charles fresh because he is a homerun threat, but the injury concern has to be there if he were to be treated as a workhorse like in previous seasons. While last year Ware was seen more as a between the tackles runner good for short yardage situations, he has also shown value as a pass catcher with 13 receptions for 231 yards, so I could see Ware getting entire series to himself on all 3 downs even with a healthy Charles.
Alex Miglio: False. Charles is being eased back in, yet he put up a viable line in limited action last week. When he is fully up to speed, it's easy to envision a time split between those two. Charles is still a dynamic back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he can do a lot of damage on just 10-15 touches a game.
Chris Feery: True. Here’s a simple fact that gets overlooked when it comes to Charles and the Chiefs offense: the offense actually seems to hum along a bit better when it’s not leaning on Charles so heavily. Flashback to last season and Ware and Charcandrick West formed a dynamic duo that the Chiefs were able to ride into the postseason. Ware has proven to be capable of handling the bulk of the workload in 2016, and while that may level out as the season moves along, he provides value even with a slight majority of carries.
Jeff Haseley: It would be crazy for Kansas City to sit down their most productive running back, in Spencer Ware, so I'm going to say True. That's not to say that Charles won't have his moments, but I do see a committee approach with both backs playing a particular role. Barring injury, I see Charles struggling to maintain a Top 20-15 status, therefore making it a challenge for him to be a viable fantasy starter week to week.
Chad Parsons: True. I absolutely think Booker will be the better play come December as we continue to see Booker's three-down acumen simmer to the surface week by week. In addition to outright passing Anderson for a lion's share of the snaps and work, Booker can also get there via Anderson injury. The Denver backfield was one all the way back in the offseason I earmarked as Booker's to lose for the second half of 2016 and nothing yet has caused a deviation.
Alex Miglio: True. We have seen this movie before, Broncos starter regresses, backup comes in and shines. Booker might not explode like Anderson and others did in the past, but the latter doesn't.
Chris Feery: True. While Anderson started the season like a house of fire, he’s tailed off considerably. That’s coinciding with Booker receiving more opportunities, and he appears poised to take advantage of it. It should gradually melt into an RBBC situation for a few weeks, but I envision Booker receiving the bulk of the workload as the season grows long in the tooth.
Chris Kuczynski: False. I do think this will be a committee going forward, and Booker might not be too far behind, but Anderson should out-touch him. We don't have a large sample size, but Anderson was coming on strong to start the year, and Booker has been fairly good on limited opportunities, so it's hard to judge just how things will shake out.
I think Kubiak will stick to the run game which has always been a focus of his offenses. The quarterback play has been poor, so this may be contributing to Anderson not putting up stats like he did to start the season, but Booker has not exactly been running away with it either.
Daniel Simpkins: False. While I see Booker cutting into Anderson’s production in the short-term, I don’t see him beating out Anderson for the majority of the touches. Booker is benefiting from defenses that haven’t prepared for his hit-the-hole-and-go playing style that is a contrast to Anderson’s smarter, more patient running style.
I predict that will get addressed by opposing defensive coordinators soon. Also, note that the poor play and injuries of the Denver offensive line have been more to blame for Anderson’s poor production than Anderson himself. If they can turn things around quickly, Anderson should still end up being the play in this backfield.
Dave Larkin: True. You can't ignore the smoke signals coming out of Dove Valley anymore. It is the classic case of a GM wanting to get 'his guy' into the lineup to see what he has. The Broncos know what C.J. Anderson is, but Devontae Booker is like that shiny new toy you just can't wait to play with.
Booker is the Buzz Lightyear to Anderson's Woody if you catch my reference. As Matt outlined last week, if you think John Elway has no influence in player participation, think again. Booker will slowly get more and more touches as the season wears on and could be a good RB2 or low-end RB1 by playoff time.
Jeff Haseley: False. We may see Booker get more carry shares in the coming weeks, but I don't see him overtaking Anderson as the primary back. I don't see Booker doing enough in his role with the team to consider him as the better fantasy option over Anderson.
Matt Waldman: Kenny Britt finishes within 300 yards of his current 1300-yard pace...
Chris Feery: True. That’s a perfectly reasonable expectation based on the Rams lackluster play at quarterback. Case Keenum has been serviceable, but he carries a high risk of implosion on a weekly basis. Britt’s performing well above expectations, and that should continue in spite of that, but we need to be mindful of the fact that there could be a few landmine games along the way.
Alex Miglio: True. Britt is garnering 6.7 targets per game, a pretty good number considering where he is playing. Britt is playing out of his mind, too, though recency bias may be affecting me here. Let's face it, you gave me 23 percent wiggle room on this question, so I had to say "true."
Matt Waldman: I sure did and he's failed to hit that wiggle room in the past despite some good games early on!
Chad Parsons: True. Britt put together quality tape in 2015 as he stayed clean off the field and looked to be returning to his early-career self physically. The Rams were horrible through the air last year (and the run game was working better than 2016), so his production was muted. Without added competition, Britt was the de facto No.1 entering 2016 and his downfield acumen has been a much-needed element to the Rams limited, but developing, pass game.
Britt has prototypical traits and high draft pedigree. Those are reclamation projects worth betting on as long as they are still seeing playing time. Britt qualifies and outside of injury, I place my poker chip on Britt with more than 1,000 yards this season.
Daniel Simpkins: False, only because of the reasons I mentioned earlier. I don’t believe in his quarterback’s ability to get it done on a weekly basis.
Dave Larkin: True. You can't help but be impressed by Britt's play this season, but the thing that will keep him viable is his quarterback's trust. Case Keenum has absolute faith in Britt to make him look good with 50/50 passes, which more often than not Britt will come down with. He is clearly playing with a lot of confidence and the Rams offense offers just enough of a run threat to keep linebackers and safeties honest. He is the lead dog in this passing game, and that won't change before the end of the season.
Chris Kuczynski: True, but only because the bar has been set pretty low. Britt only needs 508 yards over the next 10 games to hit 1000 yards. Yes, I would think he will hit that since he is the only really option in the passing game besides maybe Brian Quick.
I would by no means call the Rams a high-powered passing offense, but Case Keenum has put up a respectable amount of yards averaging 236 yards per game. With defenses presumably putting all their efforts into game planning against Gurley, I can see those numbers staying around 250 yards per game and Britt getting at least 20 percent of those yards.
Matt Waldman: Dak Prescott continues his reign as a top-12 fantasy QB...
Alex Miglio: False. Though I'd like to think Prescott continues to play near-flawless football, the NFL will eventually catch up to him. His absurd interception rate will regress, for starters, and other quarterbacks will leapfrog him as schedules improve.
Chris Feery: True. I’m sold on Prescott and the Cowboys as a whole in 2016, and the offensive side of the ball should only continue to improve. Dez Bryant is about ready to return to add another dimension to the passing game and Ezekiel Elliott resembles a back that will only get stronger with the more carries. It's a scary proposition for Cowboys opponents, and Prescott and his owners should reap the rewards.
Jeff Haseley: I'm going to say yes. His 69 percent completion percentage and 8.1 yards per attempt are main reasons why. He's not turning the ball over and he's making timely throws. He's also scoring on his own as a rusher which has aided is his ranking. As long as th addition of Dez Bryant doesn't ruin the chemistry with the offense, Prescott should maintain his place among the league's Top 12.
Chris Kuczynski: True, as long as Jerry's love affair with Tony Romo doesn't get in the way. No one can deny the impressive level of play Prescott has shown while leading the team to a 5-1 record. He has been very efficient and he has done well to protect the ball with 10 total touchdowns compared to 1 interception.
The wild card here like I said is Jerry Jones. He said Romo is still the starter. He said in the offseason Romo would be the starter for the next 4 years. Well, he is 36 and has gotten very serious injuries after 3 of the last 4 hits he has taken (two broken collarbones and broken vertebrae in his back). Also, as great as some of Romo's performances have been, his floor is pretty darn close to zero with the way he is capable of turning the ball over.
He has not been practicing and the original time table was supposed to be after the bye, that's why they didn't put him on IR to return later. They should go with the saying "Don't fix it if it ain't broke," and stick to the winning formula they have with Dak.
Dave Larkin: True. I believe the Cowboys would be foolish to yoink Prescott from the lineup while the mojo is so good, so my assumption here is the rookie finishes the year. Many have criticized his dink-and-dunk style, but he shows remarkable understanding and feel for when to take a shot downfield. The offensive line will continue to present excellent opportunities for play action shots downfield and Ezekiel Elliott will demand the attention of defenses. Prescott is in a great position to continue performing as a QB1 the rest of the way— as long as Jerry Jones doesn't get itchy feet.
Daniel Simpkins True. After seven weeks, we can no longer argue that defensive coordinators don’t have the goods on Prescott. They have shown that they are not prepared to defend him. Prescott is making great decisions through the air, gaining valuable yards when he runs, and benefiting from the respect defenses must give to Ezekiel Elliott. As long as Jerry Jones doesn’t foolishly intercede and insert Romo back into the lineup, there’s no reason to think that Prescott won’t continue to produce at this clip.