Roundtable Week 8

This week's topics: Trade questions from Twitter, end of roster stash-or-trash, dueling teammates, the state of the running back, and the stretch-run hotness. 

We've passed the midpoint of the regular season for most fantasy leagues and the trade deadline is looming. This week we'll examine deals I've seen on Twitter that involve players common to a lot of trade questions floating around the interwebs. At this point of the year, we see the waiver wire drying out. We'll look at prospects for the end of your bench with potential to contribute. We'll wrap up with a look at teammates at the same position and explore a few miscellaneous fantasy topics.  

Let's get to work. 


Trades

Many leagues have season-long trade deadlines before Week 8's games. I'll list potential deals below. If you think a deal is fair, explain why. If you think it's unfair, explain what should be done to make it fair.

Scenarios are PPR formats with lineups of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 1 K, 1 DEF and unless given further context in parenthesis, all players involved will be starters for their new teams. 

I expect we'll see some starkly different opinions on some of these because the way most fantasy owners conduct negotations and value players can vary significantly.

Matt Waldman: Julian Edelman and Matt Ryan for Amari Cooper (the Ryan owners has Brady and Bennett as starters)...

Dave Larkin: The deal is definitely fair, as Team A is a bit oversaturated with Patriots players. While that is not the worst problem to have, he would be better served by dealing Matt Ryan and riding Brady the rest of the way, with the added bonus of having Amari Cooper in tow. 

Mark Wimer: Nope I wouldn't give up Matt Ryan for Amari Cooper, regardless of Edelman being in the mix or not. Ryan is the No.1 fantasy quarterback in the land! I'd rather shop around for a better deal—perhaps deal Tom Brady and Julian Edelman for Julio Jones? That would decrease the "Patriots' saturation" and get the Brady/Ryan owner an explosive lineup for the second half.

Jason Wood: I'm not sure Edelman is worth much, so ultimately this comes down to whether the team acquiring Ryan is desperate for a QB1. If so, then let's say it's a fair deal. I favor getting the best player—which is Cooper—but I don't think it's an unfair transaction even if I strongly prefer one side. 

Andy Hicks: I agree with Jason here. Getting Cooper with those lineup options presented is a no-brainer, but in giving away Ryan I would be looking for something more. Cooper has only one touchdown for the year, while Ryan is the top-ranked quarterback right now.

I'm higher on Edelman than Wood. He is a WR3 with upside depending on the game script. This trade straight-up seems like a giveaway.

Matt Waldman: While Oakland finishes the year with a schedule almost as soft as it began, I am beginning to wonder if Cooper will be the guy drawing most of the top cornerbacks and it means easy pickings for Crabtree. Even so, I agree with Wood, Hicks, and Larkin that Cooper is a desirable "get" in a trade. 

When I first read Mark's response, I thought it had a tinge of Falcons bias. But when I accessed my trade value chart, Ryan is worth any of the top players at each position or a combo of strong QB1, RB1, WR1, or TE1 plus an RB4, WR5, or flex-TE in a 12-team league.

If Edelman is conservatively valued as a WR4, I too would be seeking a top WR like Julio Jones and additionally one of the following:

The problem I see with the initial thought that Mark and I share is that Ryan may continue to play as the No.1 QB in fantasy but he lacks the weapons sell that value the way Peyton Manning, Brady, or Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers had in their arsenals in years past as top QBs. If Jones gets hurt, I doubt Ryan remains this productive whereas each of the quarterbacks I mentioned had legit, high-end fantasy starters at multiple WR and TE spots.

If an owner pushes back on Ryan's value, I'd consider dropping my asking price to a top-5 QB and doing the 2-for-1 deal for Jones. Or, I'd see if he'd meet me in the middle and give me Jones plus a bye-week option in the top-84 at WR or top-60 at RB.

Names like Chris Conley, Dontrelle Inman, Tyreek Hill, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Tyler Lockett come to mind at receiver. At RB, Shaun Draughn, Justin Forsett, Jeremy Langford, Derrick Henry, and Chris Ivory come to mind.

What do you think about a Todd Gurley for Christine Michael deal?

Andy Hicks: Gurley owners are vulnerable, but this would be a crazy move for the Gurley owner. Christine Michael is doing ok but isn't an RB1 going forward. Thomas Rawls is coming back soon, while C.J. Prosise is starting to see the field as well.

Although Gurley, the coaching staff, and O-Line are not on the same page, there is little competition for touches. The Rams have to win and play to its strengths and Gurley is its greatest offensive strength so hopefully, the team rectifies the situation during the bye. The Gurley owner needs to remain calm and seek a much better deal rather than panic.

Dave Larkin: I'm on the side of parting ways with Gurley, but this deal isn't fair unless the Michael owner really feels like Gurley is ready to explode. I would count that as unlikely, but I would be asking the Gurley owner to throw another piece into the deal to sweeten it up. Being saddled with Gurley and the Rams offense is not a position I could easily be cajoled into. 

Jason Wood: I'm going to opt for talent over the game script and say Gurley is still worth more ROS (rest of season) than Michael. I would have to throw something into the Michael side to make this deal workable. 

Matt Waldman: Michael's value looked stronger a week after the San Francisco matchup in Week 3 and before Buffalo and Tampa Bay went nuts on that 49ers defense. While still a top-15 RB in PPR, he performed as the No.18 RB for the past 4 weeks. 

Rawls' return is a wildcard that forces Michael owners to concede that Michael's street value cannot be as high as RB15. I'd value Michael as a high-end RB3 if I were a Gurley owner, because, at a minimum, Rawls' presence should knock Michael's production down a full tier. 

Gurley has performed as the No.8 RB during the past 4 weeks and only Tevin Coleman, James White, and Le'Veon Bell have out-produced him as a receiver. The fantasy community is bemoaning Gurley's lack of top-tier production, he's not as far away as thought. 

I'd turn this deal down. I'd seek a receiver with high-end WR2 production and upside still on the horizon this season like Brandin Cooks, Terrelle Pryor, or maybe DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, or Jordy Nelson, but in either case I'd want something extra like an under-performing receiver with a brand name like Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, or DeSean Jackson and I'd sell Hicks' point hard: there's no competition for touches and Gurley is still performing as a solid top-10 RB—as a disappointment!

Mark Wimer: I don't think this is a fair trade, as Michael will be platooned with Thomas Rawls when Rawls gets back and Gurley is the bell-cow in LA. This is short-term thinking at it's worst.

Now I know that Gurley hasn't lit the world on fire in the first half, but San Francisco's rush defense is sitting there in Week 16—the fantasy championship round for most folks. Gurley will still get plenty of opportunities to run the ball, and Keenum has proven to be good enough that teams will have to dial back on the stacking-the-line-and-stuffing-Gurley strategy.

Matt Waldman: What about Lamar Miller and Odell Beckham Jr, Jr. for Devonta Freeman and A.J. Green?

Jason Wood: Blockbuster! Man, I love this deal. I'm going to assume for the moment Lamar Miller isn't hurt (coming off last night's game) in which case I MUCH prefer that side of the deal. But when you factor expected outcomes, personality drama, and injury history, this deal is fair. It's simply a case of one side betting on a given duo of stars having the better second half. 

Mark Wimer: I like it, too. It's a fair trade for both parties. All four are starting-caliber fantasy players.

Matt Waldman: I slightly prefer the Freeman-Green side, but all four players have favorable schedules down the stretch. I agree it's a fair deal. 

Andy Hicks: These big trades with multiple players often don't come to fruition due to someone getting cold feet. Here we have a case of two elite receivers swapping teams and two running backs with RB1-potential. Pending injury news on Miller, and maybe Beckham, I would consider this a fair deal. Miller and Beckham have a bigger variance in their week-to-week production while Freeman and Green are more consistent. If you like the boom-bust approach, grab Miller and Beckham.

Dave Larkin: At first glance, this one strikes me as pretty even. On one hand, you have the uncertainty of the Texans and Giants offenses, while on the other you have Freeman—who, until this week, has not been seeing the bulk of the workload—and the uber-consistent A.J. Green. I'd prefer to be getting Green, so that side of the deal edges it slightly. There's not a whole lot you could do to make this fairer, as it completely comes down to the owners' preferences. 

Matt Waldman:  Here's an offer I saw recently on Twitter, Frank Gore and Michael Thomas for Christine Michael.

Mark Wimer: This is overpaying for Christine Michael. Gore is very consistent and Michael Thomas is the No.1 receiver for Drew Brees some weeks. Also, note my earlier concerns about Michael being platooned with Rawls in just a few weeks.

Andy Hicks: I don't think it is worth giving up two starters for Christine Michael. As mentioned previously, Michael will have Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise coming back soon. Gore is at the end of his career but is a serviceable RB2 for most weeks. There isn't that much difference between Gore and Michael and if the Gore owner is giving up a receiver, the Michael owner needs to give up something as well.

Dave Larkin: Frank Gore is still the only game in town for the Colts' rushing attack, but that doesn't mean he will produce for you. Giving up Michael Thomas would be tough for me to do as I am a big fan of his talent.

Thomas' role will only grow in the New Orleans offense in the coming weeks. I would be negotiating to give up another piece other than Thomas in the deal if I was the current Gore-Thomas owner. 

Jason Wood: I disagree with the others. I think this is fair. I could see this deal working for a team that felt alright about its RB depth but wanted a high upside (potential stud) WR3.

Matt Waldman: Gore is an RB1(No.11 overall) without competition for carries. Michael is a high-end RB2 (No.15) with a strong likelihood of losing his grip on the feature role. The past four weeks, Gore has been the No.10 RB overall and Michael No.18 at the position. It underscores the point that Gore's floor is probably Michael's ceiling. 

According to my chart, the deal is already lopsided in favor of the owner receiving Gore and Thomas. If I were giving up that pair, I'd want a WR2 or Top-5 TE in addition to Michael. Examples of players in that range or playing to this level recently would be Pryor, Marvin Jones Jr, Emmanuel Sanders, Tyrell Williams, Golden Tate, Randall Cobb, or Hopkins. Tight ends in that state range or playing like it recently include Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham, Hunter Henry or Martellus Bennett.

Let's finish with another deal where Michael is the common denominator: Michael and John Brown for Allen Robinson. For added context, the Robinson owner has Le'Veon Bell, Jerick McKinnon, Duke Johnson Jr, T.Y. Hilton, Cole Beasley, Cameron Meredith, and Sammie Coates Jr as starters or part of a starting rotation based on matchups. 

Dave Larkin: I think this one is pretty fair, although it is hard to see Jacksonville turning this offense around in a hurry. I don't know if I would like to be saddled with Robinson right now, so I would be asking Team B to sweeten the deal somewhat with a high-upside running back if possible.

Jason Wood: No thanks. To me, John Brown is replacement value...BUT...I'm not sure Robinson for Michael isn't fair straight-up. So I would feel like I'm giving up too much for Robinson in this case.

Waldman: I'm with you, Wood. Robinson is WR42 right now and for the past 4 weeks, he's performed as the WR67. As we've discussed, Michael's value is high-end RB3 with Rawls' impending return. Brown has been a low-end WR4 for the past 4 weeks up from a mid-range WR6 for the season. 

Although Jacksonville has the players to turn it around and help Robinson perform as well as both Michael and Brown are performing combined, as it stands today, fantasy owners giving up Micheal and Brown would be giving up twice as much value for the player they're getting in return. I don't like this deal at all. 

I'll give up Michael and Brown for Robinson but I'd also want a high-end RB3, mid-range WR4 with promise, or a TE1 in return. Suggested players:

Mark Wimer: I think this is a fair trade but I'm not sure it would make either team better. There are question marks for all three of these guys, beginning with Browns' sickle cell-related hamstring problems, and the cratering of Robinson's play in Jacksonville. This trade makes me shrug. Meh...

Andy Hicks: Jacksonville is a mess right now, which is a shame. They built a side the right way, but it's all falling down. Marquise Lee is looking like the WR1 for now and while Allen Robinson could see a return to his 2015 form, I would bet against it.

To me, this seems like a trade for the sake of making a trade. The guy seeking Robinson has options and giving up Michael and Brown for Robinson could work, but the Robinson owner paid a high price and I'm not convinced they are selling for just Christine Michael and John Brown.

If I were the Robinson owner I'd either refuse due to the other options available (unless Bell or Hilton enter the equation). I guess it depends on the owners' win-loss record as well.


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Stash or Trash

Assuming these are players at the end of a roster in a PPR re-draft league with lineups of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, and 1 Flex and your team actually needs one of these options for a bye week or you're hunting for a reserve with potential, which of these players would you stash or trash. Explain. 

Time to hit the second-hand store. 

Matt Waldman: Ka'Deem Carey or Peyton Barber? I'm rolling with Barber only because Jeremy Langford and Jay Cutler are returning and who knows how this plays out for the running back depth chart. Barber is at least earning carries because Dirk Koetter is taking the ball out of Jameis Winston's hands in favor of establishing a strong and active ground game. Barber has performed well enough to continue earning touches in relief of Jacquizz Rodgers

Jason Wood: I don't like either player but if I had to pick one, it would be Carey. He's looked interchangeable with Jordan Howard at times this year. 

Stephen Holloway: I'm not too high on either player but I prefer Carey over Barber. 

Andy Hicks: Carey. Peyton Barber will go to the back of the queue once Doug Martin returns. Neither would be more than a one-week filler, though.

Dave Larkin: Probably Peyton Barber for the same reasons Waldman mentioned, mainly the Bucs have demonstrated the willingness and ability to run the football in recent weeks. Dirk Koetter has shown a reluctance to trust Jameis Winston, so I believe the Bucs will stick to this strategy. Barber is a nice lottery ticket to have for the end of the season. 

Mark Wimer: Given the injury situation in Tampa, I also prefer Barber. Doug Martin had a setback with his hamstring and is still weeks out from returning, and Barber earned non-trivial action last week (12-84-1) in tandem with Jacquizz Rodgers. Like Matt referenced, Carey is stuck in a dysfunctional offense with prima-donna Jay Cutler coming back to pilot the Bears' offense for the rest of the season. I think Tampa's offense has more opportunity for Barber than Chicago's does for Carey.

Matt Waldman: Man, I was worried all of you were going to walk out of the shop without even browsing the aisles on that one. What about Mike Davis or Darren Sproles

Jason Wood: Davis. We know what Sproles is, and he's never going to get enough snaps to be in your lineup. You use him as a desperation ploy and hope he breaks a touchdown with one of his 5-7 touches. Davis, on the other hand, can be a full-time player if Carlos Hyde continues to be sidelined. 

Mark Wimer: Sproles is getting opportunities in both phases of the game week in and week out in Philadelphia - he is integral to the mix there, so I like him.

Andy Hicks: I don't care how many touches Sproles gets a game, it has to be worth more than what you will get out of Mike Davis. Carlos Hyde could be back after the bye and even if he isn't, I would prefer Shaun Draughn.

Stephen Holloway: I was high on Davis coming out of South Carolina, but he has done nothing thus far in his career and San Francisco's run game has been dismal. Give me Sproles for this season.

Dave Larkin: Sproles, and purely because I trust the Eagles offense to get into more scoring positions. Mike Davis is a fine running back, but Sproles will be able to pick up targets all over the field and in the passing game; Davis may be limited due to the ineptitude of the 49ers offense.

Matt Waldman: I so want to say Sproles because he's an example of how scared most of the coaches in the NFL are about leaning on a back of his size. If you truly watched Sproles at Kansas State, you know what I mean. I wish a coach gave Sproles one year of feature back carries during his career. If it happened, a lot of minds would change about him. 

But that take on Sproles is my fantastical dream, not reality. I don't think Davis would be limited in this 49ers offense because he's a good receiver and this team is good enough to keep games close for a long enough period of time for the backs to perform well. The problem for this team is closing out games or staying competitive for all four quarters and even then, Davis will earn draw plays and receptions. The upside for Davis is there if Hyde were to stay hurt AND Shaun Draughn to get hurt, too. 

That added factor of Draughn is enough for me to rationalize the choice of Sproles. 

Let's talk about Justin Hunter, Chris Conley, and Breshad Perriman. Which one do you like the most of the lot?

Mark Wimer: This is another injury-related situation. Given how the Bills' receiving corps is getting whittled down to nothing, Justin Hunter may be the last man standing there for Tyrod Taylor.

Heck, Jeremy Maclin is only getting five targets or so a week (4/40/0 receiving last week) and the TD passes are distributed at random down there (Tyreek Hill?) so Conley looks unappealing to me. Perriman has proven nothing at this level yet. So for me, Hunter is the only guy of the three earning a real "NFL Opportunity" in Buffalo right now

Dave Larkin: It's Perriman, but not by much. Conley doesn't do anything wrong as a player per se, but the offense he plays in is so limited in its scope and opportunity.

Perriman has shown flashes of what he can be. When the Ravens get Steve Smith back they should be able to spread the ball around more. 

Jason Wood: None of the above?

Matt Waldman: We all can't drive a Rolls Royce...

Jason Wood: Ha! I guess gun to my head, I'll opt for the raw upside of Perriman (devil we don't know versus devil we do).

Andy Hicks: With Sammy Watkins out and now with Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin struggling with foot and concussion injuries, respectively, it is time for Hunter to use it or lose it. He has doubled his targets from 1 to 2 to 4 and may be all they have at the position for this week.

Stephen Holloway: Underachievers all three, but the first two are both in limited passing offenses, so I go with Perriman, but he seems like a real long shot this season.

Matt Waldman: Hunter! Tyrod Taylor is actually a decent match-up play and he's a fine deep-ball thrower. The two things Hunter does at a high level is out-run and out-leap defenders. While catching the ball and playing physical football are question marks, there's no competition for targets. If Conley were on the Ravens or Bills it would be no contest, but I just create roundtable questions.

Speaking of which, the question of Jesse James or Cameron Brate

Andy Hicks: It has to be Cameron Brate. Jesse James is an inferior Heath Miller, who was never a fantasy stud. Brate will get touches and go close to being fantasy useful.

Mark Wimer: Cameron Brate is more integral to the passing attack in Tampa while James runs hot and cold in Pittsburgh. Brate has one game under three receptions so far, while James tends to see about 2 catches for less than 20 yards more often than not. Brate is the guy to own here, in my opinion.

Jason Wood: Brate and it's not even close. 

Matt Waldman: James is No.17 and Brate is No.20 and during the past four weeks, James is No.17 and Brate is No.23. James has 31 targets this year and 13 the past 4 weeks. Brate has 31 targets and 14 during the past 4 weeks. It's close when considering Brate had a bye week during this span of time, Koetter declared a moratorium on the Bucs' passing game, and Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. 

I'm going with James. Brate has 7 red zone targets to James' 5, but Brate earned 5 of those targets in Week 3 and only 2 since. James' earns a look in the red area with greater consistency and he's outscoring Brate this year. 

Stephen Holloway: I like it, Matt. James slightly ahead of Brate.

Dave Larkin: Jesse James all the way. The Steelers offense revolves around Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, but this pie is big enough to feed a tight end. Once Ben Roethlisberger gets back in the line-up, we should see a connection between he and James brew up nicely. 

Matt Waldman: Finally, Case Keenum or Colin Kaepernick?

Mark Wimer: Case Keenum and it's not close. Keenum has a strong grip on the top job in LA while Kaepernick has been terrible as a passer (again) since getting his job back (for now). Jared Goff is not ready to play at the NFL level according to reports out of LA, while Gabbert is, arguably, the better option for the swirling-the-bowl 49ers.

Dave Larkin: Reluctantly, it has to be Colin Kaepernick. Despite offering very little as a passer, the rushing ability in Chip Kelly's offense tilts the balance. 

Jason Wood: Ugh...neither appeal. I'll begrudgingly pick Kaepernick because ball all accounts Jared Goff was a colossal bust or he's going to get a shot over the very pedestrian Keenum.

Matt Waldman: I'm not believing the Goff-bust-talk. This, "oh my gosh, Goff is far less ready than we expected" narrative lacks nuanced analysis and it's a shame it's coming from former football players working at giant sites.

I spoke with a quarterback coach to collegiate and professional players about this Goff talk in August. My initial reaction to it was disgust and I wanted to keep an open mind about it. Was missing something when I read this analysis?

The answer was "absolutely not." Goff went from one of the simplest offenses in terms of reading the field and calling plays to the most complex. I was told the transition might as well be like learning Chinese. The fact that he's ONLY "still having trouble" changing plays at the line of scrimmage is an accomplishment at this point of his first-year transition.

Remember, Carson Wentz ran a west coast offense in college and Dak Prescott even had more pro-style concepts than Goff. According to Cecil Lammey, one of the biggest reasons Paxton Lynch isn't starting is because the long verbiage of the Kubiak offense is bogging him down and he can't remember the play calls.

So to say Goff is a colossal bust is premature.   

But that said, I'm going with Kaepernick because of his ability to run and create on the move. He's good for 7-12 points a game with his legs and I'm not counting rushing touchdowns. It pumps life into his below-average passing skills. Keenum had some big games, but I don't like the combo of his pop-gun deep arm and receivers who are either/or talents in a specific area but lack all-around games.

Gabbert is better at identifying open players and has a quicker release, but he lacks the confidence to pull the trigger and he misses easy throws to wide-open receivers. Kaepernick identifies the open players slower and has a slower process from drop to release that gives defenders more time to cut off his passes, but he also has better accuracy on wide-open looks and he's more creative on the move with his arm and legs. 

Andy Hicks: I can see a use for both. The Rams clearly don't think Goff is ready and of the four interceptions thrown against the Giants by Keenum, three were the fault of the receivers—Tavon Austin was at fault for two, including an egregious tip of a crossing route and Brian Quick ran the wrong route when Keenum threw the end zone fade.

Keenum has thrown for at least 250 yards in the last 4 weeks and is completing a high percentage of passes. Look at his receiving group and that has to be impressive. Speaking of poor receiving groups, it has to be a concern for hoping for anything out of Kaepernick. I see less hope for him, especially if the 49ers are trying to trade Torrey Smith. You can't make milkshakes out of mud.


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Teammates

For the rest of the season, which of these teammates do you prefer in PPR leagues? 

Matt Waldman: Cobb or Adams? 

Jason Wood: Are we really asking this question? 

Matt Waldman: Yes we are. Adams has been within +/- 3 targets of Cobb in 5 of the 6 weeks Green Bay has played and he's scored touchdowns in 4 of those contests while Cobb has only scored in 2 of them. 

Jason Wood: Then it's Cobb and it's not close. Adams had a GREAT game, but Cobb has the defined role, the better pedigree, and is more talented.

Andy Hicks: Cobb for exactly the reason Jason said.

Dave Larkin: If I needed to pick a piece of the Packers offense, it would be Davante Adams. There is still a bit of trepidation in my waters when it comes to Aaron Rodgers' level of play, but Adams is consistently going to be matched up against lower level cornerbacks, so opportunity knocks for high-leverage touchdown opportunities.

Matt Waldman: Me, too Dave. Cobb's reputation precedes him and adds weight to those not willing to weigh how close it really has been this season. Another thing about Cobb is that he's really been a slot receiver in his role with the Packers for the most productive parts of his career. He's been at his best when there are two strong outside options to take the heat off him as purely a perimeter guy. Adams is earning Rodgers' trust in contested situations and he's becoming more reliable on timing routes, too. It's closer than our friends think and I'm actually leaning towards Adams. 

Mark Wimer: Cobb is likely to be more consistent going forwards. He's the clear-cut starter alongside Jordy Nelson, while Adams' chances will come sporadically as he enjoys a good matchup against the opposing defensive backs. Now, in a dynasty league, I might lean to Adams as he has less wear-and-tear on his tires. But in a standard redraft, Cobb is the guy to own.

Matt Waldman: Golden Tate or Marvin Jones Jr?

Andy Hicks: Jones, clearly. Tate is a WR2 or WR3 at best. Jones can be more.

Mark Wimer: In PPR I might lean to Tate, now that he is back in good graces in Detroit. In leagues that award points for long TDs or are TD based, Jones is the guy. I actually own (and start) both in a dynasty league I play in, given the state of the Detroit running back stable. Either guy is a serviceable fantasy receiver in the current situation.

Stephen Holloway: Marvin Jones Jr has really taken advantage of his increased opportunities and I will admit that I was wrong about him this pre-season.

Dave Larkin: It's still Jones, but not by much. Golden Tate is starting to claw back his role as defenses adjust to Jones and treat him with more respect, but Jones is still the better all-around pass catcher and should still be the apple of Stafford's eye. 

Jason Wood: Marvin Jones Jr. Jones is the big-play maker. Tate has found a renewed sense of purpose as the Lions adjust to having no run game nor healthy tight ends, but he's still a possession guy in this offense. Jones will be targeted enough and is one catch away from a 75-yard touchdown. 

Matt Waldman: If I said Tate, anyone who reads my work would suspect I've been bribed or hit over the head. Jones is the better route runner, more sure-handed, and almost as good after the catch. 

Let's talk Bengals backs...Jeremy Hill or Cedric Peer--I mean, Giovani Bernard

Dave Larkin: It's a toss up between these backs. I'm still fairly concerned by the drop in play of the Bengals offensive line, but Hill offers the better touchdown upside. If I had to choose, it would be him—even in PPR leagues. 

Andy Hicks: In a close one, Hill. The touchdowns are the key decider here.

Mark Wimer: Hill is the guy who gets the TD opportunities—Bernard has to score from outside the red zone and so has less opportunity to score. Hill is the guy for me, but I can see arguments for Bernard in PPR leagues.

Stephen Holloway: These guys have both been playable. In PPR, I still lean slightly to Bernard but Hill has been effective enough to be in your fantasy lineups.

Jason Wood: We're still waiting for word on Hill's injury. Assuming that's not a problem, I would lean toward Hill because of the touchdown upside. But let's be clear, Gio Bernard has a meaningful fantasy role to play in the remainder of the season, too. Particularly in PPR leagues. 

Matt Waldman: I'll go against the grain and pick Bernard. He earns more consistent touches regardless of Hill's output in a given week. Hill has 5 games with less than 10 fantasy points. Bernard has only three off-weeks and it was close to only being two. 

The need for Bernard in the Bengals' receiving game in most contests that aren't against Cleveland seals it for me. After all, this is a PPR question. Even if it wasn't, I'd lean towards Bernard because the consistent quality production matters more to me than Hill's high-lows. 

Next up: Devontae Booker or C.J. Anderson (presuming Anderson's injury as of posting this article proves to be a one-week deal)? 

Andy Hicks: Anderson, but it's close. We haven't seen the best that Booker can produce yet, but we know who Anderson is.

Dave Larkin: C.J. Anderson isn't done yet, but you have to think Booker will be given the bulk of the carries as John Elway's regime looks to the future. 

Mark Wimer: This is similar to the Hill-Bernard situation. I think that Anderson will score more TDs and that Booker will catch more passes. I'd lean to Anderson.

Jason Wood: C.J. Anderson is going to have more fantasy points, but they're going to commoditize each other, unfortunately. 

Matt Waldman: Prior to the announcement of Anderson's injury, I would have agreed with the Anderson choice. Booker has shown great burst and a decisive mindset on open creases that leads to quality gains. Anderson is more creative and has better power after he changes direction or when he's hit low. 

Denver seemed headed towards a productive 1-2 punch where both had fantasy value as starters. We'll have to wait on Anderson's diagnosis to see how to proceed this year. 

Let's end this segment with our latest installment of Terrance West or Kenneth Dixon...

Stephen Holloway: Even though Dixon has not yet shown much, I would prefer having him on my roster than West. He's a more promising talent that the coaching staff is excited about. 

Andy Hicks: I keep waiting for the Kenneth Dixon that everyone raves about to appear. Baltimore has taken running backs in the 4th round for about the last 6 years. He is just the latest one. Give me West. Maybe this smoke that people see with Dixon turns into fire, but I'm skeptical. 

Mark Wimer: Dixon has shown me nothing so far. So even though West burned me personally last week, I still favor him over Dixon.

Matt Waldman: I'm a Dixon raver. I can assure folks that he's not "just the latest one." None of the backs the Ravens took in recent years have the burst, agility, or versatility that Dixon offers in his feature back frame. The reason he appears to be "just the latest one" is the MCL injury that has limited him. I think by season's end, a few fortunate fantasy teams that could add him or hold onto him without doing damage to its win-loss record will be rewarded for their patience. 

Jason Wood: If this were a dynasty question, it would be Dixon in a runaway. But West has been good/great so far and I don't see why he would lose his starting job barring injury.


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 Miscellaneous

  • Last year, Devonta Freeman (153 pts) was the only back with at least 100 fantasy points in standard leagues after 7 weeks. This year, there are 6 backs with at least 100 fantasy points. There are 9 more with at least 90 fantasy points this year compared to only 3 in 2015. Do you think the running back position is rebounding from last year's low-point and do you think it will be a significant rebound? What do you think the next 2-3 years will look like for RB production and how might it impact your fantasy strategies? 
  • What are your thoughts on Tyrell Williams' prospects for the rest of the season?
  • Mike Wallace, temporary WR1 while Steve Smith is out or Joe Flacco's main squeeze?
  • Matt Forte, dead or alive as a fantasy RB1 the rest of the way?
  • Name one non-QB1, RB1, WR1, and TE1 that you want during the final six weeks of the regular season for fantasy because you think they're about to set leagues ablaze with their play? 

Matt Waldman: Let's start with the state of the running back position. 

Stephen Holloway: The two things that jump out at me as causing improved running back performance are:

1) Last year had so many running back injuries which limited sustained success by individual backs

2)  Poor quarterback play, leading to more rushes

The increase in fantasy points is due in large part to the increased number of rushes by several backs thus far in 2016. Consider several of the league leaders in carries thus far have over 130 rushes in the first seven games:

  • David Johnson (146)
  • L. Blount (143)
  • D. Murray (138)
  • M. Gordon (137)
  • E. Elliott (137)
  • L. Miller (136)
  • Gurley (134)
  • Forte (132). 

Several of those teams have had poor quarterback play. Palmer is completing 60.2 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage since 2008. He has only thrown 7 touchdowns and he has 5 interceptions. New England was without Brady during the first four games. And Dallas has been really conservative with the rookie Prescott. The Texans, Rams, and Jets have also had terrible quarterback play.

Count me among those that expect injuries to decrease the number of opportunities that the league leaders have had to this point. 

Andy Hicks: Like the other guys have mentioned taking a one year sample is not a trend. I don't think it will be a massive rebound, though. The league has clearly evolved into a passing league. In the next few years, though,  the league is likely to lose Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer, with Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers not far behind.

This has to have an effect because the next generation of quarterbacks aren't up to these levels yet or may never get there. Running Backs will come into the league and produce. To get quality passing is a different matter. Stephen touched on this point, but if teams aren't getting production out of a quarterback, what will they do? Run it of course. 

Dave Larkin: It is difficult to determine whether this year's trends will sustain, but one thing we can be certain of is that the running back is not dead yet. The position is so transient that seemingly any player can be thrown into a fantasy lineup to produce. Take Jacquizz Rodgers, for instance.

Who would have thought he would be racking up 20-point games in Week 7 of the 2016 season? It's not as simple as 'anyone can produce', of course, but it's not far off that mark. With less practice time in the offseason, we see a marked drop in the ability of defenders to tackle.

I really believe this lack of exposure to football in the offseason is hurting and will continue to hurt, the overall product. Running backs will have an easier time of it as a result. For the next two to three years, I would say we will continue to see a smattering of dependable backs (four to five on a weekly basis), but the rest will be cobbled together as the weekly toll that football takes is borne out in our lineups. 

Matt Waldman: The lack of tackling angle is an interesting one I didn't consider. I was thinking about the defenses getting lighter, quicker, and more nickel-oriented, which leads to teams countering with heavier sets and more tight ends. I suppose both factors come into play. 

Jason Wood: Of course we're seeing a normalization. Last year was HISTORICALLY bad (by several standard deviations) due to the secular shift to RBBC and a horrific set of injuries and poor game scripts. There was almost no chance the RB position didn't bounce back this year.

The next 2-3 years will resemble this year and the band we've seen over the last five+ years. 2015 was an odd duck and the kind of thing you fade, versus viewing it as a new baseline. 

Matt Waldman: What's interesting about it this year is that this production continues as it has through the season, it will be the best running back year since 2011. These heavy sets that I mentioned several teams using more often might help backs sustain this rate of production—as will a lot of quarterback injuries and rookies leaning on the run. 

Mark Wimer: I agree that last year was a statistic anomaly. Some return to a more normal baseline was expected in 2016. Also, remember that the NFL is a copycat league and with the way Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are performing in Dallas, more teams may decide to build a decent offensive line and then grind out games with a young runner like Elliott.

I also agree with Dave that the farcical level of padded practice sessions the players negotiated into the last CBA is negatively impacting tackling (among many other things). September's regular season games are actually the true 'training camp' now.

Matt Waldman: Is Tyrell Williams breaking out as Cian Fahey broached in this week's Pushing the Pocket?

Dave Larkin: Williams is clearly earning the trust of Philip Rivers, and the Chargers passing attack seemingly operates smoothly no matter who is in the lineup. There is no reason to think Williams can't continue this run.

Last week against Atlanta, he totaled 10 targets and he has been consistently targeted since establishing himself in the lineup. I wouldn't have any hesitation throwing him into my lineup as a WR3 going forward, although the Denver matchup this week may be an exception. 

Jason Wood: He's a talented player but is also limited. I think with each passing year it's harder to ignore the unreal talents of Philip Rivers. He manages through massive injuries, horrible team defense, and poor game scripts, yet always finds a way to deliver a prolific passing attack. He's become a passer that is so good you're well served to bet on his top targets—regardless of their pedigree.

Travis Benjamin is more talented than Williams but he's also not 100 percent healthy. To me, that sets up Williams to be an asset. He'll have ups and downs (high variance) but will deliver fringe WR2 numbers in standard leagues the rest of the way, and makes for a perfect WR3.

Mark Wimer: Williams is arriving as the main target for Philip Rivers. As others have noted, Rivers is good enough to utilize a particular players' strengths and minimize throws that don't play to that players' strengths. Williams has been clutch for Rivers (10 targets for 7/140/0 receiving last week) and should be a strong fantasy receiver for his owners in the second half of the NFL season.

Matt Waldman: I'll argue that Benjamin is more talented as a deep route runner and after the catch, but nowhere near as useful in the middle of the field or in contested situations. I like Williams to continue building on his production and maintain WR2 production. Every week I watch the Chargers, it's Williams making the difficult catches and it underscores the real point: Rivers trusts him to be the man in pivotal situations more than Benjamin or Inman. 

Next up: Mike Wallace. Temporary WR1 or Flacco's Main Squeeze?

Jason Wood: Neither. He's valuable but is far too volatile week-to-week to be considered a WR1. He's another guy—like Tyrell Williams—that is an IDEAL WR3 for a playoff contending fantasy unit. 

Stephen Holloway: Wallace is a good fit for Flacco's deep passes and should continue to lead the Ravens' wide receivers even if Smith returns. I do not expect him to be a consistent WR1 though.

Andy Hicks: Wallace has at least 6 targets in every game, but in the last 4 this has ramped up to at least 9. Steve Smith played in weeks 4 and 5 when Wallace didn't turn those targets into significant numbers. He looks to have earned the No.1 role and gained Flacco's trust. He is a good WR2 for the rest of the season, even if Smith returns.

Mark Wimer: Wallace is Flacco's main squeeze now. Smith is still going to get his targets when he gets back, but Wallace is the deep threat that Flacco can play bombs-away 3-4 times a game and also target in the intermediate zones.

As Andy mentioned, Wallace has seen nine or more targets in four consecutive weeks going back to Week 4 and Smith didn't go down until Week 5, so the chemistry between Wallace and Flacco predates Smith's injury. In fact, I recall Flacco raving about Wallace during training camp.

Dave Larkin: As Andy and Mark stated, Wallace has been a target hog in recent weeks, but I just can't bring myself to trust him on a weekly basis. The Ravens are lacking outside threats at wide receiver, so by default, he will enter the conversation as a WR2/3 with a shaky floor at best. I just feel the inconsistencies of his game will cost your fantasy team at times, and that is an asset I am not comfortable buying. 

Matt Waldman: Steve Smith will earn more targets when he returns. He's a better route runner, he's better after the catch, and he can still get deep. He'll earn more short and intermediate targets and everyone else will take a back seat to one of the greatest receivers of the past 15 years who has overcome the near-impossible injury at a most unlikely age. I'm afraid to doubt him. The guy wrestles Terrell Suggs in the locker room.

What about Matt Forte? Dead or Alive?

Dave Larkin: Zombie Matt Forte rose from the grave last week to give his disappointed owners a glimmer of hope, but the Jets offense remains a rather uninspiring unit. Forte is more than capable of earning yards when they are well blocked for him, but at this stage of his career, he adds very little to his carries. He can be a solid RB2 with some up and down weeks, but to venture into RB1 territory is a little rich for my taste.  

Mark Wimer: Alive, but they have to feed him the ball in a disciplined fashion, which could be problematic if the front office forces Todd Bowles to start 'evaluating' Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty in the second half of the season.

Also, teams would stack the line and blitz the youngsters so Forte might have to pick up pass rushers a lot. Can I vote half-alive, depending on whether the team is trying to win or if they decide to create a late-season training camp out of December?

Matt Waldman: Larkin's zombie reference qualifies...

Mark Wimer: Count me in with the zombie horde. 

Matt Waldman: Chase Stuart's New York Jets, otherwise known as The Walking Dead.

Andy Hicks: Ha! Matt Forte looked like he was to break through the ancient RB moving to a new team mold that has historically been a downward move. After Week 1 he looked great. Since then, it's been a struggle.

Both his 100-yard rushing games (on the nose) have taken exactly 30 carries and his use in the passing game has been disappointing. Unless the Jets can get their passing game on track, he'll struggle to be an RB1 for the remainder of the season.

Stephen Holloway: Forte has been capitalizing on his opportunities with the Jets, but is averaging a career-low 3.5 ypc. In addition to Andy's thoughts about carry count to reach 100 yards, Forte has not been as involved in the passing game as much as expected. Look for him to get bogged down, particularly if the Jets decide to give one of their younger quarterbacks a test drive down the stretch.  

Jason Wood: He's alive and well, and was never really on life support. The guy is a talent and the Jets simply needed to get through a rough patch in their schedule to remember that Forte is light years better than any other RB on the roster, Bilal Powell included. 

Matt Waldman: Agreed, Jason. Forte's line has been dinged, the defense hasn't been strong, and Fitzpatrick is playing like he took a few hits from a...Laremy Tunsil gas mask. In the Harvard lawn gnome's defense, Eric Decker's absence really limits the flexibility of the passing game and what Fitzpatrick could do with adjustments. Remember, he's throwing to guys with a lot less experience when he's not leaning hard on Brandon Marshall

Final question: Name one non-QB1, RB1, WR1, and TE1 that you want during the final six weeks of the regular season for fantasy because you think they're about to set leagues ablaze with their play? 

Stephen Holloway: Russell Wilson, Jeremy Hill, Michael Thomas, and Gary Barnidge.

Andy Hicks: It's probably cheating to say, Tom Brady, so I'll go with a rested and refreshed Cam Newton. Probably cheating to say Le'Veon Bell as well, so I'll go with Todd Gurley. Hopefully, the Rams figure out the problems during the bye week. If I'm going with Cam, I may as well double hitch with Kelvin Benjamin. At tight end, Charles Clay. The Bills have lost every wide receiver of note and now maybe McCoy.

Mark Wimer: My list...

Non-QB1: Eli Manning. Odell Beckham Jr Jr. has to come alive in the second half of the season, doesn't he?

Non-RB1: Lamar Miller. More TD rushes should happen in the second half now that the starting offense is starting to become accustomed to each other. They were starting from scratch there this year.

Non-WR1: Tyrell Williams, for the reasons discussed above.

Non-TE1: Gary Barnidge. Now that Josh McCown is likely back, I like Barnidge to have a 'boom' second half. 

Jason Wood: Mine...

Non-QB1: Russell Wilson 

Non-RB1: Kenneth Dixon

Non-WR1:Corey Coleman

Non-TE1: Zach Ertz

Dave Larkin:  My choices...

QB: Eli Manning surely can't continue to play this poorly. When the Giants come off their bye, I expect to see better. 

RB: Doug Martin is a great lottery ticket to have. The Bucs have shown the ability to run the ball, and have remained committed to it as well. He could be an RB1 if the chips fall right. 

WR: Michael Thomas of the Saints has really impressed me recently. I believe Drew Brees will continue to pepper him with targets and he could end the season as a strong WR2 in a high-octane attack. 

TE: Jack Doyle has the potential to be the de facto top target in the middle of the field for the Colts, with decent touchdown opportunity on a weekly basis with Andrew Luck playing at a high level. 

Matt Waldman: Jared Goff...if that's an alien way of writing "Russell Wilson." I think Wilson will be healthy enough to transform this offense and fantasy owner's fortunes by Week 10.

I like the Kenneth Dixon call and Devontae Booker is pretty obvious if C.J. Anderson's knee is bad, but I like the Doug Martin call even more. The Buccaneers are in a weak division and a healthy Martin behind an offensive line that is playing a lot better since September are two factors working in his favor. 

I also like Thomas, but let's be different and say Stefon Diggs with a schedule of the Lions ,Cowboys, Jaguars, Colts, and Packers from Weeks 12-16. Before that, he gets the Chicago, Detroit, and Washington. 

I'll also choose Barnidge due to McCown's return. And yes Andy, a Gronkowski choice would be a cop-out. Good call. 


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