Last weekend's game revealed a potential changing of the guard for a variety of starting roles. As we enter the stretch run of the fantasy season there's compelling data on players with fantasy import. Although Footballguys is a fantasy website, it's also a place for straight football talk. This week, our panel of staffers will discuss the fantasy merits of potential new starters, debate the value of players based on specific data points, share their views on two major rule changes in recent years, and weigh-in on the latest chapter of the Josh Gordon soap opera.
- Potential New Starters
- Darren Sproles
- J.J. Nelson
- C.J. Prosise
- Peyton Barber
- Antone Smith
- Tim Hightower
- Russell Shepard
- Tyreek Hill
- Austin Hooper
- Fantasy Scoring Rules You Wish Leagues' Had
- The Calvin Johnson Rule
- The NFL Taunting/Celebration Rules
- Josh Gordon
Let's get to work.
If in a situation where you must choose, explain your preference. And don't be a snob. If you begin with neither, "or do I have to" with any of these. Which player would you prefer...
Matt Waldman: 13th-ranked Blake Bortles, who has scored 103.35 of his 154.7 fantasy points during the second halves of games, or No.14 Jameis Winston, who has earned 81.6 of his 148.3 fantasy points during the second halves of contests?
Chad Parsons: I prefer Jameis Winston. Mike Evans has a strong connection with Winston and more than any of Bortles' targets in Jacksonville. Winston also is adept at running in the red zone and making quality plays outside the pocket, where Bortles runs into poor passing decision once roaming outside the pocket. Winston's run game is at least projected to improve with Doug Martin returning as opposed to Jacksonville, where they ignore their backs for drives at a time, even when the game is competitive early.
Chris Kuczynski: Coincidentally, I got to see both of these quarterbacks first-hand during the past two weeks, and both were fairly ineffective against the Raiders' low-ranked defense. I agree with Chad, I have to give the edge to Winston because of Mike Evans and the help of the Bucs run game. Doug Martin will return soon, and in his absence, Rodgers has played very well. Taking a look at the Jags, they have one of the worst run games in the league, Robinson and Hurns have both been up and down, and Bortles doesn't protect the football enough.
Matt Waldman: As a matter of housekeeping, I will note that Bortles' work when he breaks the pocket and on the move is actually a strong, positive point of his game, statistically. At least when last hearing about this data point in mid-October. It's his difficulty reading defenses and the fact that he didn't continue working as hard on his game this summer as he did the summer of 2015 that is what concerns me most about him.
Dave Larkin: Not a selection I would enjoy making, but it would have to be Bortles. As caught up as we sometimes get in the 'how' of fantasy football, sometimes all that matters is the cold, hard facts at the end of the day. Did the player score an above-average number of points for his position in a given week? If so, it matters not how he got there, only that he did. Bortles is a classic example of this. Even in his muted 'breakthrough' season of 2015, his totals were inflated by so-called 'garbage time', but his owners did not whine about it. Jacksonville's flawed offense is destined for more game scripts that will force Bortles into a pass-first mode.
Stephen Holloway: Both of these two quarterbacks have disappointed thus far and although Bortles leads slightly, I would much prefer to have Winston down the stretch. The Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints twice as the season winds down in weeks 14 and 16 which are typically playoff weeks. Bortles might out-play Winston up to that point, but those two weeks are playoff gold.
Chris Feery: I’ll take Winston over Bortles, and it’s a pretty simple decision in my eyes. Quite simply, the Jaguars have failed to deliver on the promise that they had heading into the season. Although it may be tough to remember, they were an ‘it’ team over the summer that many expected to take a proverbial leap forward, but that hasn’t come close to coming to fruition. Bortles has been dreadful, and there are no signs that will be changing as the season moves along. While the total fantasy points to date are close, I’ll look for Winston to outshine him more weeks than not.
Alex Miglio: This is such a mind-over-matter decision. Blake Bortles is simply terrible, but a product of his awfulness is that his team routinely finds itself in a massive hole. This is conducive to garbage-time scoring, as we saw last week when Bortles scored a ton of fantasy points in spite of his horrific outing. Winston, of course, isn't in much better shape, but the Buccaneers are a better, more balanced team than the Jaguars. If we are taking either of these guys on garbage-time potential alone, Bortles edges Winston out. But be prepared to tilt whenever you use either of these guys in a lineup.
Will Grant: Bortles. Unlike Winston, I think Bortles has better receiving options with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and I think their running game is a complete disaster with Yeldon and Ivory. Tampa has Mike Evans is getting double-digit targets a game, but after him, the options get very very thin. Their running game is really banged up, but at some point Doug Martin and Jaquizz Rodgers will be back. As Alex implies, the Jaguars are even worse in this area. I’d take either of the Bucs' backs over Yeldon or Ivory this season, meaning Bortles is going to have to throw for Jacksonville to compete.
Waldman: I'm with the Bortles crew due to garbage time and a lack of offensive balance. Plus, Dirk Koetter has emphasized the run far more than he ever has as a coach because of Winston's issues as a decision-maker. Seriously, it's not like he looked at free agent Jacquizz Rodgers and thought he's so good that we're going to take him off the Bears' scrap heap and make him the centerpiece of our offense. The motivation was keeping Winston from putting the Buccaneers in early holes that it could not climb out of and Rodgers has been just good enough to do the job.
Let's switch to No.15 WR Jamison Crowder with 49.6 of his 112.9 fantasy points scored during second halves, or No.17 Jarvis Landry and 44 of his 111 fantasy points scored after the Terry Bradshaw butchers a few names during a quick run of highlights?
Dave Larkin: Tricky one, but I'll go with Crowder. He has a nice connection with Kirk Cousins—and most importantly, has the trust of his quarterback to be where he should be. Crowder isn't going to blow away defensive backs with his speed, but his route-running is excellent. If DeSean Jackson misses any time then Crowder will be the beneficiary.
Chris Kuczynski: I will go with Landry here. He is far and away the best receiver on the Dolphins. With the suddenly dominant run game, Landry will find himself open more often since defenses have to account for the run.
There are a lot more mouths to feed in Washington, so it's hard to know which games Crowder would get a larger share of the targets, because he took advantage of other players being banged up (specifically Reed missing a game due to concussion).
Alex Miglio: Jamison Crowder is scoring touchdowns. Jarvis Landry is a target hog. The latter has a higher floor as a result, and Crowder's touchdowns could dry up. Granted, Crowder has garnered 22 targets over the past two games. If that holds up, then he'll wind up being a great fantasy value. We just don't have enough data yet to really tell if this is a blip or a trend.
Chris Feery: Jarvis Landry, and this one is not close. There’s far more potential for a monster game from Landry despite the solid production that Crowder has delivered over the past two games.
The clock is about to strike twelve in Washington, and the days of Crowder not receiving the attention he deserves from opposing defenses are coming to a close. While the Dolphins offense leaves a lot to be desired in the consistency department, the emergence of Jay Ajayi and the running game should further open things up for the passing attack.
Will Grant: Landry. He doesn’t get into the end zone very often, but he’s clearly the best (and maybe only) receiving option that the Dolphins have this season. Crowder has done well, but I am not as confident that he continues this production the rest of the season, especially with Jordan Reed back from injury. I think Landry stays consistent and Crowder takes a downturn.
Matt Waldman: If DeSean Jackson continues to stay banged up I could see a case for Crowder, but I'm with most of you on Landry. It is a tougher choice than I would have imagined three months ago.
What about No.21 TE Julius Thomas with 19.7 of his 59.4 points scored after Gus Bradley assures the sideline reporter that his team hasn't given up?
Or, do you go with No.29 Austin Hooper whose 19.7 of his 36.5 fantasy points (tied 12th among TEs with Thomas) have been scored while Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a lookalike for one of Cruella Deville's minions, travels from his luxury box to the sideline where he lurks while twisting his mustache?
Chris Kuczynski: I'll choose Hooper. As mentioned earlier, the Jaguars offense as a whole has not been very effective and Thomas is the third or fourth option in that passing game. Matt Ryan on the other hand, is QB1 in fantasy this year and the second option in Atlanta's passing attack is wide open behind Julio Jones.
Will Grant: Hooper is probably the guy that I’d want. His stock seems to be on the rise, especially now that Tamme is on the sideline. I think with a week or two to establish himself as the long-term option. Hooper takes over the leading TE role. Let’s face it, Tamme wasn’t doing much before the injury anyway.
Alex Miglio: I'm very confused.
Matt Waldman: I can imagine. Your Dolphins don't know what a tight end is...
Alex Miglio: Our latest hope came from Cleveland after all...
Matt Waldman: Touché.
Alex Miglio: I will roll with Hooper simply because we never know what we're going to get out of the Jaguars offense. Yes, garbage time has been kind to Bortles, but his pass catchers are a hot mess when it comes to fantasy football. At least the Falcons have a consistent, great passing game with an MVP candidate under center.
Chris Feery: This one is a pretty tough call, but I’ll go with the emerging Hooper. The Falcons have been incredibly potent this season, but the passing game has been screaming out for another big target behind Julio Jones. While Mohamed Sanu has been serviceable, he could also benefit from another option in the attack to take some of the weight off of his shoulders. Big things are expected out of Hooper down in Atlanta, and last week’s line of 5/41/0 portends that the coming out party is coming up pretty soon.
Dave Larkin: The Jacksonville offense is so flawed, so the choice here has to be Hooper. The Atlanta offense is far from flawed and has some great pieces for Matt Ryan to work with. Hooper wasn't expected to be a huge contributor as a rookie, but he has delivered when called upon. His target share will continue to be low, but the offense as a whole will provide him with high-leverage opportunities and an outside shot at a touchdown every week.
Chad Parsons: Also give me Austin Hooper over Julius Thomas, who looks a step or two slower than in his prime production of Denver years ago. Also, Jacksonville is struggling to support any target outside of random events in garbage time. At least Hooper has shown athleticism down the field and strong hands in a secondary role. The uptick with Jacob Tamme's shoulder injury should help.
Matt Waldman: Thomas will have higher upside, but he'll offer more boom-bust production. I can see Hooper delivering as the third or fourth option for Atlanta because the No.2 option in the passing game is [insert one the name of your favorite co-starter at running back].
The big-play upside that Hooper had in two- and three-tight end sets happened because opponents let Hooper run free multiple times while preoccupied with Tamme. It won't be the case with Hooper and Toilolo as the duo.
I'm keeping Thomas in PPR league, but I could see regretting the idea of not pouncing on Hooper. After all, he was the rookie tight end that I bet would have the best chance to buck the trend of first-year options not delivering as reliable fantasy players.
Let's stick with Hooper as part of another potential choice. Vernon Davis is 10th among tight ends with 171 receiving yards during the second halves of games. He earned significant time this weekend against the Bengals despite the return of Jordan Reed. Would you prefer him to Hooper?
Stephen Hollway: Washington's offense has continued to lean heavily on the passing game and Vernon Davis has caught 23 passes on only 26 targets. I would prefer to count on Davis, who could quickly become the primary tight end with another Jordan Reed injury. Reed has missed 16 games over his three and half seasons in the NFL, including two games already this season.
Chris Kuczynski: This is a tough call. I thought with the return of Reed last week that Davis would be relegated to the bench. Both TEs had a great game. Again, I will go back to my previous statement that Washington has so many mouths to feed it's hard to know whether the offense can sustain two starting TEs. If Hooper keeps the starting spot over Tamme due to prolonged injury or strong production, I think he will have more consistent results than Davis.
Will Grant: I think Hooper is the better prospect this season. Give Reed another week or two and you won’t be thinking about Davis as an option for anything except a guy you hope your opponent picks up and starts against you because of an injury.
Alex Miglio: After years of Vernon Davis burning fantasy owners, why would you trust him? He had one good game...
Matt Waldman: I think 2-50-1 against Philly, 6-79 versus Detroit, and 5-93 last week in London actually count as three good games...
Alex Miglio: As you said earlier, touché. Still, I expect Reed to carry the load if he stays healthy. The trouble is neither Davis or Hooper are consistent. I'm rolling with Hooper on potential and the fact he doesn't have nearly as much competition for targets at his position.
Chris Feery: I’ll also stick with Hooper. It’s possible that Davis fades back into the shadows as Washington has plenty of other options in the passing attack, while Hooper’s role looks like it will be increasing as we move forward.
Dave Larkin: I prefer Davis, but not by much. He seems to have fostered a nice connection with Kirk Cousins and if defensive coordinators are smart they will put extra effort into taking away Jordan Reed. That will open up the field for Davis, who has shown a nice burst and soft hands on many occasions in recent weeks. Many pundits had written him off, but Davis is proving them wrong with his play.
Chad Parsons: I also prefer Vernon Davis to Austin Hooper for the rest of the season. Davis has more athleticism than nearly every starting tight end in the NFL even well into his 30s. Washington schemes plays for Davis, even in as the No.2 tight end in the offense, weekly. Finally, Davis offers top-half TE1 upside every week Jordan Reed misses, who is on the hot list for concussions after missing multiple games with his most recent one.
Matt Waldman: I can't quit you, Vernon Davis! I also like what Washington is doing to get Davis in good match-ups down field. Like Dave, it's not by much, but I am leaning towards the veteran.
Let's look at some running backs. LeGarrette Blount is the No.8 PPR RB after 8 weeks and the No.3 fantasy RB inside the opponent's 25 yard line with 57.7 fantasy points scored. Frank Gore is the No.10 PPR RB and No.10 inside the opponents' 25. Who do you love?
Chris Kuczynski: The Patriots are finally showing faith with one RB instead of being unpredictable week-to-week. With defenses forced to worry about Brady and Gronk, Blount has been able to use his power running style to go up the middle with not many defenders in the box. Gore on the other hand, I am just waiting for Father Time to catch up to him. But at age 33, he has not slowing down enough to discount him. I have to side with Blount simply because the Patriots offense as a whole is much better than the Colts.
Will Grant: Ugh, tough one. As I'll share later, Blount has a TD in every game this season with the exception of one, and multiple TDs in two of them. That trend can’t continue. Gore has been solid, if unspectacular to this point and I don’t see that changing any time soon. To be fair though, I’ve been saying this is the week that Blount doesn’t score for his last three starts, so my track record on this is highly suspect.
Dave Larkin: It has to be Blount. The Patriots offense may not reach 2007 levels, but they are well on their way. With Tom Brady's level of precision in the red zone, defenses almost have to sell out to stop him and his array of weapons. It leaves Blount in a great position to capitalize. The big back will continue to get the first call on the goal line, and he has more than enough about his game to prosper in this offense for the remainder of the season.
Stephen Hollway: Blount has been the leading rusher for the always explosive Patriots offense. The tend to lean heavily on the running game after they get the lead and they seem to always be ahead. It is possible that Lewis returns and takes carries from Blount, but since Blount has already scored 9 rushing touchdowns, he is the easy choice over Frank Gore and the struggling Colts.
Chris Feery: My love belongs to Blount in this scenario. He’ll continue to outproduce other backs while flying under the radar. Additionally, we can count on the Patriots to be one of the more potent offenses until they choose not to be. The Colts offense is at the mercy of whether or not their offensive line will fold up like a card table on a weekly basis.
Matt Waldman: What do you have against folding card tables? It's how I entertain!
Chris Feery: Nothing if the snacks on said folding card table are quality.
Matt Waldman: Nuanced point there, Chris. Alex, do you love Blount?
Alex Miglio: I love Blount for a reason many already pointed out: the Patriots are going to be ahead in a lot of games. The more they lead, the more fantasy-relevant Legarette Blount becomes on a weekly basis. It's a game script thing.
Matt Waldman: Dude, I was counting on you to show some love for the Canes.
Alex Miglio: (Sighs) Yeah, I wish I could. If Gore were in New England...
Matt Waldman: Even Bill Belichick would say, "Geeze, all this guy does is talk about football!"
Alex Miglio: That would be an accomplishment.
Matt Waldman: Blount is the easy choice as long as Lewis isn't ready to resume his torrid pre-injury pace and Gore's skill notwithstanding.
Stephen Hollway: Assuming Coleman returns healthy, I prefer him down the stretch although both he and Riddick should produce well for the rest of the season.
Alex Miglio: Injury issues aside, Riddick has a clearer path to touches than Tevin Coleman. The former averages just over 15 touches a game to the latter's 11. While Coleman is a more explosive player—and thusly provides a higher ceiling—Riddick's floor is much higher. That is especially true in PPR leagues given Riddick averages just over seven targets per game.
Chris Feery: At full health, I’m leaning towards Coleman. He has formed an impressive dynamic duo with Devonta Freeman, and I’ll look for that to continue once he’s back to full speed. Riddick has done some nice things in 2016, but I’ll look to the back with bigger upside that’s playing on a team that should be playing meaningful games deep into the season.
Will Grant: Coleman because the Falcons have proven that you can trust their offense and that there are enough touches to go around. In Detroit, I wonder how long before they pack it in and decide that they are going to finish third in the division and miss the playoffs again. Atlanta is clearly in the playoff hunt and I’d rather have a player from a team looking to make it rather than a player from a team that’s counting down the minutes till the offseason.
Dave Larkin: Theo Riddick, but not by a whole lot. The Lions offense has shown a creative streak and Riddick has been the beneficiary of some terrific play from Matthew Stafford meshed with excellent play calling. The shifty back is often the mismatch for the Lions offense in the red zone and when they are elsewhere on the field, he will always be fed the football. Coleman is more boom-bust to me, but Riddick provides that safe floor of production.
Chris Kuczynski: I like Riddick as the only game in town for Detroit. He has proven to be more than just a pass-catching RB by carrying the ball more than anyone else on the roster. Coleman is a great compliment to Freeman, but when both are healthy, they will limit the other's ceiling. With that said, Coleman is now banged up, so Riddick looks even more appealing.
Matt Waldman: I think the PPR format as an embedded feature of this question tips the scales in favor of Riddick for the high volume of targets. In a standard league, I'd lean towards Coleman because of the way the Falcons offense capitalizes on his big-play upside. But that wasn't nature of the question.
I also like that Riddick's high-percentage role in the passing game lends itself to consistent targets in a wider variety of game scripts. It's more likely that Riddick's workload remains constant, if not grows larger, if Detroit packs it in. It's the idea of the Lions ingesting a magical formula that makes them a defensive juggernaut and creates game scripts where it earns 28-point leads by halftime in most games that scare me more.
(No wonder I don't sleep well anymore)
Potential New starters
Our readers want the goods on waiver wire specials with starter potential:
- Darren Sproles
- J.J. Nelson
- C.J. Prosise
- Peyton Barber
- Antone Smith
- Tim Hightower
- Russell Shepard
- Tyreek Hill
- Austin Hooper
Matt Waldman: Rank your top five choices in order based on a 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE,1 flex in a PPR league.
Chris Kuczynski: The same as Chad with one exception—1) Sproles. 2) Hightower. 3) Prosise. 4) Nelson. 5) Hooper.
Dave Larkin: The same as Chris with one exception—1)Sproles. 2) Hightower. 3) Tyreek Hill. 4) Nelson. 5) Hooper.
Chris Feery: 1) Sproles. 2) Hightower. 3) Hooper. 4) Nelson. 5) Shepard.
Matt Waldman: Let's begin with Sproles since he's the consensus top draw.
Chris Feery: He has a consistent role in the offense to begin with, and the disappearance of Ryan Mathews in Week 8 is telling. He’s been the more productive out of the two of them, and it wouldn’t shock me to see the disparity in touches grow pretty wide as we move along.
Chad Parsons: Sproles is the name on this list who may not even need an injury to be a weekly play going forward. Ryan Mathews barely played in Week 8 and Sproles has been an efficient player his entire career. Sproles runs with balance and surprising power between the tackles and rarely goes down on first-contact in 1-on-1 situations on the perimeter. Sproles creates flexibility for the Eagles offense, not Ryan Mathews. I like Sproles far more in PPR than non-PPR scoring. The theme to my rankings is running back as they are more likely to be predictable RB2 or better when opportunity dictates for a week than a wide receiver or tight end rising up a depth chart.
Dave Larkin: He may not be able to boast a lion's share of touches in any given week—and his inconsistency in this regard will frustrate his owners—but the up weeks will more than make up for the down ones. Sproles has easily been outperforming Ryan Mathews in the Eagles backfield and should continue to be a key cog as both a runner and receiver.
Chris Kuczyniski: Sproles is heads and shoulders above everyone else on the list and he will have the most consistent value for the remainder of the season because of his heavy volume in the pass game. You will be lucky to find Sproles on the waiver wire because in many leagues he was picked up a month ago and has been started the last couple weeks.
Stephen Holloway: His consistent involvement in the Eagles' offense all season is my rationale. He is the Eagles second-leading rusher and has twice earned more than 10 carries in addition to his use as a capable receiver out of the backfield. As usual for Sproles, he has almost as many receiving yards as rushing yards and has averaged 50 yards per game.
Only one of you didn't have Tim Hightower No.2 on your lists. Explain Hightower's appeal.
Chad Parsons: Hightower has been my must-stash player this season. I recommended him as a preemptive pickup leading up to Week 8 as we are approaching the time of the season where some of the bye weeks are complete and stashing the ideal difference-makers is paramount. Hightower may go back to 15%-20% of snaps after his huge game in Week 8. However, a Mark Ingram II injury paves the way for a repeat of 2015 where Hightower was an auto-play and key title run piece for fantasy owners. I would rather have an upside play like Hightower on my bench than marginal starters weekly if my studs are not available.
Chris Kuczynski: He could see a 50-50 split between him and Ingram, especially after proving to be really valueable in Ingram's absence last season. On the other hand, he's the biggest boom-bust player on the list of the best candidates you provided. Ingram could be used more in the passing game and have the much higher share of a committee. Either way, Hightower is a great hold in the event of Ingram losing touches (particularly at the goal line) or getting injured.
Dave Larkin: I agree that Hightower is a risky choice, but the opportunity in front of him to seize a role in the Saints backfield is too good to ignore. Yes, Sean Payton has made fantasy owners tear their hair out with his creative goal line playcalling, but this offense has the horses to give Hightower big opportunities. Mark Ingram II may be able to re-establish himself, so that makes an investment in Hightower a risky but potentially rewarding one.
Chris Feery: To say that Mark Ingram II has been a disappointment to this point would be an understatement. The Saints coaching staff is obviously beginning to feel the same way. Hightower was force fed the ball at numerous times in last week’s tilt against the Seahawks, and I’ll look for him to receive a healthy workload until Ingram works himself back into good graces.
Prosise earned the most votes for the No.3 spot. Those of you who listed him, share you thoughts.
Stephen Holloway: Prosise was talked up all pre-season by the Seahawks' coaching staff and he has come through, particularly as a receiver in his limited action thus far. He should continue to be used in the passing game and should get more carries as he gets more comfortable in the offense. The Seahawks definitely need playmakers.
Matt Waldman: As a Seahawks fan, I disagree that they need playmakers as much as they need an offensive line to support those playmakers since Russell Wilson cannot do his scrambling magic right now. When he does, we'll see the offense improve. For now, a player like Prosise earns a Junior-Riddick role in this offense.
Where I want to see more of Riddick is between the tackles. He looked smooth on some zone runs that I saw him struggle with at Notre Dame, which is a good sign that the work he did with former pro RB and current coach Chad Spann has paid at least partial dividends early on. But we haven't seen him run the full gamut of the Seahawks' playbook so I'm not expecting him to overtake the far more polished Michael this year.
He'll have a role much like C.J. Spiller, but make more of it because he's a student of the game and I'm counting on him not to drop as many passes. More potential for big plays? Yes. Lots of touches? I'm not sold based on one game plan.
Chad Parsons: Prosise saw nearly every passing down snap in Week 8, including hurry-up drives. This is bad news for Christine Michael's PPR upside. At a minimum, Prosise will be a flex option in PPR weekly going forward.
It makes him quality depth for a contending fantasy team, but he loses tiebreakers to Sproles and Hightower who could be top-12 plays and earn the top spot on their respective depth charts for the stretch run. I doubt Prosise overtly takes over Michael's role or early-down work, in general, the rest of the regular season.
Chris Kuczynski: For me, this is where there is a drop off after the top two. I put C.J. Prosise here because if his use in the passing game. His share of the touches is less clear than Sproles and Hightower, especially when Rawls returns and he has two RBs to compete with.
J.J. Nelson got a decent amount of love here. Why?
Stephen Holloway: Nelson saw limited action through Week 6 this year. However, he has earned 19 targets, 11 catches, 163 yards and 2 touchdowns over the past two weeks. There are worse lottery picks to count on down the stretch. He also leads the Cardinals with 14.3 ypr and also has 27 yards rushing.
Matt Waldman: Just the facts, ma'am...
Chris Kuczynski: Nelson is shooting up the depth chart because of injuries to the other three WRs. Fitzgerald is the only WR who is assured to be a top target in the passing game. The Cardinals offense will continue to be explosive as long as Palmer and David Johnson are healthy, so it is a good bet it can sustain 2 or 3 high-scoring WRs per week, and Nelson is getting his opportunity.
Matt Waldman: Playing the odds...
Dave Larkin: As Stephen mentioned, Nelson's involvement in the offense has skyrocketed in the past few weeks. The performance against the Panthers mostly came as the Cardinals were forced to pass, but he took advantage of the match-ups presented very effectively.
The Cardinals offense line has to be a big concern, as does Carson Palmer's level of play, but this team is not ready to tank just yet. Nelson will continue to see his fair share of targets. If recent results are anything to go by, he will take full advantage.
Matt Waldman: I liked his clutch catch on third down against Richard Sherman where he maintained his balance despite Sherman grabbing his ankle while airborne to make the reception. It's the kind of thing I saw Nelson exhibit in school. He was fearless as a collegian, but I wondered if his weight was at the extreme range where it would prohibit him from earning a shot. Not so in Arizona.
Austin Hooper was the most popular player at the end of most lists. Explain.
Chad Parsons: With Jacob Tamme's shoulder injury, Hooper will see at least one start (Week 9), but I probably at least two, if not more. Hooper has been efficient with his sparse targets this season and offers more down-the-seam and after-catch upside than Tamme who is slower. Julio Jones was dinged up in Week 8 and Tevin Coleman is on the mend. Hooper offers a TE1 projection based on immediate need and as a riser in Atlanta's passing game pecking order.
Chris Kuczynski: I think he has a clear shot as the No.2 option in the Falcons' passing game.
Dave Larkin: I agree wiht Chris, Atlanta is crying out for a true target behind Julio Jones, who has been hobbled in recent games. Mohamed Sanu can do that for them to a certain extent, but Hooper has the chance to build on his 5-46 line this Thursday night with Jacob Tamme out. Tight end is a position filled with streaming options, but Hooper can be one of the borderline starter-worthy options.
Chris Feery: The Falcons are in dire need of a complementary target to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Hooper hauling in all five of his targets last week bumps his development cycle up a notch. We’ll look for the coming out party to take place over the second half of the season.
Matt Waldman: I know what the kid did at Stanford and I liked the idea of him having a bigger presence this summer. But when the NCAA's regulations fouled up Hooper's opportunity to participate at the earliest stages of training camp, I lost some of my unusual enthusiasm for a rookie tight end. I think Taylor Gabriel has as much upside as that third or fourth option because the Falcons are still concerned about Hooper's blocking abilities, which could limit him to two-tight end sets with Levine Toilolo.
This week should tell the story. Considering the fact you'll find other streamable options if you Hooper's role doesn't dictate consistent production, I'd take the chance now, knowing you can cut your losses later. The only real loss will be money not well spent.
Russell Shepard also earned a spot on a pair of rankings. Come forward, sheep.
Stephen Holloway: Shepard has a similar usage pattern this year as Nelson. Through week 5, he had 53 snaps, 4 targets, and 3 catches for 22 yards. Over the past two games, he has played 53 snaps and had 7 catches on 9 targets for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns.
During the preseason, Shepard was frequently praised by the coaching staff, but he only played sparingly other than on special teams. His production should continue in the second half of the season as he continues to be involved in the offense.
Chris Feery: I also saw similarities to Nelson; intriguing productivity and target volume over the past few games. Shepard appears to have established himself as a key cog in the Buccaneers passing attack.
Matt Waldman: Shepard was one of my UDFAs to monitor a few years ago. When a player can make strong adjustments to the football in the end zone despite not having a lot of experience at the position and still get the job done with playing time at this level, it's worth noting. He's a smart, poised player and I can see why he earned a mention on this list.
Tyreek Hill has provided exciting and lucrative fantasy moments. Dave, you had him third on your list. Why?
Dave Larkin: With Hill, it only takes one play - and that could make your fantasy week for you. The Chiefs offense doesn't fall into the category of a juggernaut unit by any stretch, but it is a consistent bunch of players with a veteran quarterback at the controls. The diminutive Hill has been taking advantage of Chris Conley's ineffectiveness, and he is the main deep threat on this team now. The very definition of boom-bust, but a player who could pay off big time.
Chad, you listed Antone Smith as the fourth option on your list. Why?
Chad Parsons: Jacquizz Rodgers is dealing with a foot injury and Smith dominated snaps over rookie Peyton Barber in Week 8. Smith has more big-play upside than Rodgers but is not a well-rounded interior runner. Smith is a short-term patch job depending on Rodgers' absence and when Doug Martin returns. Smith will be a ho-hum RB2 with the de facto lead gig, but not for a long stretch like Sproles or potentially Hightower, who are higher in my priority list.
Which of these players not on your lists would you absolutely avoid AND WHY?
Chad Parsons: As much as I see development and upside from Tyreek Hill, he is the avoid player (outside of best ball formats) on this list.
Dave Larkin: You're killing me, smalls...
Chad Parsons: Nothing personal, the Chiefs are a stunted pass game and struggle to feed even Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce most weeks. They want to play conservative football, especially with a lead.
Hill has produced on a small snap count. While Hill is likely to produce another big game or two the rest of the season, projecting which week without multiple injuries to primary weapons in Kansas City is near impossible.
Russell Shepard is a close second as Tampa Bay is not a dynamic offense, struggles to protect Jameis Winston, and Shepard is in a committee with Cecil Shorts and Adam Humphries for secondary duties behind target hog Mike Evans. Like Hill, Shepard will require multiple injuries to truly emerge as a sturdy floor-ceiling play down the stretch.
Chris Kuczynski: Tyreek Hill is someone I'm avoiding for the same reasons Chad mentioned—the Chiefs passing offense can't even support Kelce and Maclin as week-to-week producers. They will be conservative and play ball control with the run game.
I wouldn't say I am avoiding either player, but I'm not excited about Peyton Barber or Antone Smith because it is hard to gauge what their long-term value is. They will firm a committee for a brief time while Doug Martin and Rodgers are hurt, but Martin should be back soon and he can be used as an every down back, so when all 4 RBs are healthy, it's hard to see either of these players used. They are worth a stash, though.
Chris Feery: I think it's a tough call between Nelson and Shepard. Nelson has more upside as a whole because he's on a more potent offense. It’s not hard to see the Buccaneers offense hitting the skids for a crucial stretch during the run to the fantasy playoffs so my answer is Shepard.
Dave Larkin: It is a tough choice, but it would be J.J. Nelson. As I alluded to, the Cardinals offense has the biggest potential to bust behind a shaky offensive line and a quarterback low on confidence. Nelson could be a volatile asset with Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and perhaps Michael Floyd gobbling up the majority of the passing game pie.
Which option in your top five has the best consistency weekly for quality games at a starter baseline for this league type?
Chris Feery: Sproles is the clear top option based on his consistent role in the offense. His role should continue to grow due to the ineffectiveness of Mathews, and we can’t guarantee the others on the list will receive the same level of opportunities.
Dave Larkin: Without a doubt it is Sproles. His involvement in the Eagles offense is such that it will be hard for him not to be at least a low-end RB2 every week.
Chad Parsons: Sproles offers the best weekly consistency for multiple receptions at double-digit touches overall. The Eagles lack a strong core of playmakers and Carson Wentz is running the offense like a sturdy veteran. Sproles will be on the RB2 or better radar weekly for the rest of the season - a better floor outlook than the rest of the list.
Which option in your top five has the most boom-bust swing for this league type?
Chad Parsons: Hightower is the 'swing for the fences' play. Mark Ingram II was seeing a low snap count (40%-50%) as the by-name starter in New Orleans, but a heavy rotation already. The pronounced benching for an early-game fumble in Week 8 was telling. While I doubt Hightower zooms up to 50% or more of the snaps and 15+ touches beginning now, he offers difference-making upside if Ingram should get injured or fumble once or twice between now and the end of the season.
Dave Larkin: Tyreek Hill, and it's not close. The Chiefs offense will play it close to the vest in every game if they can afford to, leaving Hill to make the most of his 20-25 snaps. Only a big play will guarantee him value every week, but there is a chance he becomes more involved on a snap-to-snap basis.
Chris Feery: Nelson is the most boom-bust candidate, and that’s simply due to the Cardinals wealth of talent at wide receiver. While he’s certainly impressed in recent times, it’s also not hard to envision games in which he’s waving his hands furiously in a bid to get a target headed in his direction.
Fantasy Scoring Rules That you Wish you had
If we could track any form of data from weekly games, what scoring changes would you institute in your leagues? Here are two examples of mine:
- I'd count defensive pass interference penalties or receivers and award the yardage assessed.
- I'd count offensive line penalties inflicted upon individuals defenders and give them points based on the foul and yardage.
What ideas have crossed your mind?
Chad Parsons: Matt read my mind with counting pass interference penalties for players. I would even count a defensive holding penalty as five yards for a wide receiver. The number of notes I make on a weekly basis of a wide receiver ending with a poor box score only to have a pass interference penalty in the end zone and another for 20+ yards is significant.
Matt Waldman: I agree on holding calls. I'd add facemask, horse collar tackles, and tripping to the mix for the same reasons.
Chad Parsons: Another scoring addition is counting all fumbles as negative points for offensive players. Most, if not all leagues I see penalize only for a fumble LOST by the player, but I believe they should be penalized either way. The final outcome of which team recovers the fumble is random and the offense recovering does not wipe away the poor play of losing the ball initially.
Like the pass interference penalties, I would subtract points for offensive penalties accrued by fantasy players. An offensive holding or pass interference penalty could be -1 point for 10 yards. A false start, illegal motion, etc. could be -0.5 points as a 5-yard foul.
Chris Kuczynski: I don't have any ideas off the top of my head for scoring I've never seen in a league but Matt, I love our idea about counting PI yards toward a WR. Nothing worse than seeing your WR wide-open for a long TD, then the defender grabs at him and the RB vultures the TD on a short run after the penalty.
Logistically how would your suggestion work? I think the yards makes sense, but would you go as far as awarding the TD? It's kind of an "always or never" situation because fantasy categories can't really be subjective and there's a lot of factors like would he have kept control, are two feet in, etc. but I love the idea.
Matt Waldman: I didn't think about awarding the touchdown. I could see an argument for that scenario. Since this is all magical thinking at this point, if we could easily see it was a penalty that occurred in the end zone, then I'd award six points on top of the yardage.
If the penalty occurred anywhere else, I couldn't see awarding points that equate to a touchdown based on the strong potential of the receiver scoring if the foul wasn't committed. After all, the receiver could trip or pull a DeSean Jackson and let the ball go before he crosses the goal line in a preemptive celebration gone wrong.
Stephen Holloway: I like the idea of points based on the penalties assessed, but I expect many will complain that the scoring is already too heavily slanted to wide receivers and the interference example might exacerbate that dynamic.
Will Grant: If there were a way to track the offensive stats that a player loses because of a penalty that they were not responsible for, I’d like to find a way to report that. We’ve all seen plenty of touchdowns that were called back because of a holding penalty. Yes, in some cases the holding penalty was what allowed the player to spring free for the TD, but even as a casual fan, you wince thinking of how close your team came to actually scoring. Finding a way to reward a percentage of the points they play would have generated if the penalty did not happen would be cool (say 1 pt for 20 yards rushing, if the play was called back for a holding penalty instead of 1 pt for 10).
In a similar manner, I think it would be interesting to award points to a player who lost them due to a coach’s choice. A receiver makes a 7-yard catch, but the play is called back because of an offside penalty. The team takes the 5 yards and replays the own vs. allowing the 7 yards pass to stand. A PK makes a 40-yard field goal, only to have the coach take the points off the board because the defense was offside and it gives them a first down.
I’m not sure how you do it, but if there were a way to reward shut-down cornerbacks who funnel offenses away from them beyond the normal pass defense points, that would be interesting as well. Opposing QBs throw away from guys like Josh Norman because of his coverage ability, but there it’s hard to find a reliable way to measure just how much that impacts a game.
Chris Feery: I’d instill defensive bonuses for holding opposing offenses to certain yardage thresholds. Additionally, I’d mandate that our league requires the drafting of team offensive lines, which would be scored based on the productivity of their respective offenses, and receive negatives for sacks allowed and QB hits. The lines would also be eligible for bonuses based on 300-yard passers or 100-yard rushers.
Alex Miglio: First downs should count for something, and drops should count against pass catchers. The latter would be tougher to formalize since we all can't agree on what constitutes an actual drop, but it would be interesting to see how league dynamics change if a drop counted for -1.0 points, for example.
Matt Waldman: Speaking of catches and drops...
The Calvin Johnson Rule
Now that the Calvin Johnson rule has been in effect for a few years, what do you think of it?
Alex Miglio: I think it's a good rule that needs to be applied better. We saw how Golden Tate caught a touchdown last season that was immediately batted out of his hands, yet it was upheld because he had it for a fraction of a second long enough to count.
Referees should allow catches to stand if players to go to the ground after having established possession. The idea of the rule, to me, is to determine a catch if a player is already going to the ground while making the grab (e.g. diving), not taking one or two steps on his way down.
Dez caught it.
Matt Waldman: There are only a handful of teams I like less than the Dallas Cowboys and I can't disagree with you about Dez. Your point about going to the ground is a good one. Travis Kelce had a great catch up the sideline against the Colts that was ruled a drop and it illustrates how counterintuitive this rule is.
Chris Feery: I’m not a big fan of the Calvin Johnson rule and your point about overthinking it is dead-on. It’s really time for the competition committee to lock themselves in a room until they come up with some simple, hard and fast rules for officials to abide by. We’ve seen different interpretations of the rule itself, and far too many games that have been impacted by it. I’ll dare to dream of the day when a questionable catch does not take up 10 minutes of time and hope to see that come to life in 2017.
Will Grant: I’m not a fan of the rule, but I understand why it’s there. I think there are many times where it’s used to overrule a play that (to me) looks like a catch. But I also understand the need for a ‘football move’ to avoid cases where a guy gets his hands on the ball but can’t pull it in for a catch and gives up either a fumble or an incomplete pass.
The problem is what Alex broached, the application of this rule is highly subjective. I honestly thought that Calvin Johnson made the catch that ultimately created the rule and I honestly believed that Dez Bryant made that catch a couple years ago when the rule was used to squash the Cowboys comeback in Green Bay.
But I’m sure there were plenty of fans on the other side of the ball who believe just as strongly that neither of those plays was a ‘catch’ and that the plays were correctly ruled as an incomplete--
Matt Waldman: They're wrong. Sorry, it's a horribly executed rule that has made the game more exasperating than exciting.
Will Grant: Ha! I'm with you. But you also illustrate my point. No matter which way you rule, there will always be a group of people who think that you are wrong.
Given that, I tend to fall on the side of supporting the rule because if the play could arguably go either way, you should air on the side of the conservative call (in this case no catch). If it costs you the game, as much as it pains me to say it as a Cowboys fan—you shouldn’t have needed Dez Bryant to make that catch on 4th down in the first place.
Matt Waldman: If it looks like a catch, it should be a catch.
Chad Parsons: Yes! It's like watching the World Series and not knowing what is a strike or a ball (or basketball and not knowing what is a foul) anymore. Most of the time an NFL play goes to review for a catch, I have no idea what to expect.
Can the ball move when the player hits the ground? Do they need to possess it through going to the ground? The standard line seems to shift from play-to-play and each replay.
Chris Kuczynski: I agree with Chad. I can't tell if the refs are gonna call it a catch unless two feet are down and the ball doesn't move an inch. If the player hits the ground or the ball moves a little bit, or God forbid, makes some contact with the ground, all bets are off.
Stephen Holloway: I don't have a problem with either rule. I think that the NFL could use some additional discipline on the field.
Will Grant: I’ve never liked the ‘TD celebration’ penalty rule, although I can understand why it is in place. In a perfect world, teams should be able to celebrate a TD just about any way they want.
It fires up the crowd, it fires up the team, and it’s fun for just about everyone. But you understand the frustration on the other side of that when you see a guy like Terrell Owens celebrate on the 50-yard line in Dallas, and as a Cowboy fan, you’re rooting for the team to retaliate.
Now you’ve crossed the line into actively rooting for a player to be injured by another player and I think the game loses a lot when that happens. I don’t like the rule, but I understand why it’s there.
Matt Waldman: It makes sense, but good management is more important than overlegislation. At this point, it's clear there are too many teams of officials executing the legislation so tightly that it misses the actual point of the rule.
Chris Kuczynski: I agree, Matt. The celebration/taunting penalties have gotten out of control. Refs seem to be oversensitive about it, while we see holding rarely called (but that is a rant for another day). The penalty yards after a TD assessed on a kick is a slap on the wrist, but when it comes after a 3rd and 1 because the WR said something to a defender, the refs are overstepping it by now making it a very long 3rd down.
In addition to that, one more unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the player is ejected. These types of penalties should be reserved for unnecessary roughness or some kind of fighting after the play.
To be honest I'm not even sure what they are looking for because it certainly isn't a consistent rule. Last year, I watched Adam Jones rip off Amari Cooper's helmet and slam his unprotected head against it with no flag at all in Week 1. Two weeks ago in Jacksonville, Crabtree touches his collar and he gets a penalty for "performing a throat slash" motion. Bottom line, the officiating needs to be addressed in general for its inconsistency.
Matt Waldman: That call on Crabtree was worse than a fifth-grade hall monitor with an obsessive streak about the letter of the law and a desire to please in hyperdrive. If those officials were school principals, they'd be banning great works of literature for the silliest of reasons because the school board created rules to address profanity or sexual topics in the classroom with greater care.
Chris Feery: I have mixed feelings on this one. I like the enforcement of taunting, as I fail to see the need for smack talk and rubbing it in someone’s face. Unfortunately, the policing of that results in penalties for simple expressions of exuberance, and that’s something we need to see more of.
It’s a tough line to navigate, but I look at it in a fairly simple way from years of coaching youth sports: It’s ok to celebrate, but if you’re going out of your way to embarrass your opponent, you’ve crossed a line that’s there for a reason.
Matt Waldman: Reasonable.
Chad Parsons: While I fundamentally believe players should give the ball to the official after a touchdown, a la Barry Sanders like they have been there before, the celebration rules are pretty ridiculous. The fans enjoy them, the players enjoy them, and those are the moments which will live on during the week more than the plays themselves. All that would be good for the NFL, yet they are trying to work celebrations out of the game. It does not compute.
Alex Miglio: I am a huge fan of the Miami Hurricanes, and I loved those '80s and '90s teams. What do you think?
Matt Waldman: As a fellow Cane who went there a few years before you (88-91), I know where you're going.
Alex Miglio: To me, celebrations should be a part of the game. Limiting taunting is fine, but why not let players trash talk a little? Football players are humans, and they should be allowed to express their joy.
Matt Waldman: I will say that the Randall "Thrill" Hill celebrations from the early Dennis Erickson era were too much. Hell, the guy used to go to the Burger King across the street from campus and celebrate himself while in line to order a Whopper.
I am not kidding.
Seriously, Hill was a funny case. But the team was also reacting to the officials trying to make an example of them early and the players decided to continue crossing the line to rub it in the faces of the NCAA and the officials more than the opponent.
I mentioned on Twitter a few months ago that if an opponent doesn't like taunting, it needs to play better. I had a reader retort that it was the same mindset that bullies have.
On the surface, I understand where he's coming from. We create and encourage celebrity behavior from big-time college and professional sport. Kids are impressionable and the actions of these professionals can have a profound impact on a child's behavior.
I can't say I fully agree with his point, though. Full-contact sports involve physically dominating an opponent. Striking, hitting, parrying, dodging, and countering physical movement are all actions that are shared with fighting.
There are probably good arguments that counter why football and fighting are as synonymous as I just portrayed it. If it isn't fighting, competition is a form of conflict.
I haven't placed enough thought into the subject to say where I think the line should be drawn when it comes to celebration and taunting. Football is an emotional game. Hitting someone hard and preparing to be hit requires getting into a certain emotional space and I can see how that release of energy can influence emotional behavior could require a broader degree of boundaries than what a bunch of suits believes.
At the same time, martial artists are taught to keep their emotions as balanced as possible during a conflict. I'd be interested to see how football players and martial artists who have played the game would view this topic.
While I don't know exactly where the line should be, I do know that the NFL has gone too far with its enforcement. End zone celebrations should be ok. Leaving the end zone to celebrate or standing over an opponent should be considered taunting.
Talking trash? I'm undecided.
I've been told by multiple contacts that about half the teams in the NFL would be interested in trading for Josh Gordon if he's reinstated, despite the fact they don't have word that he wishes to return to the NFL.
- Name a team or a handful of teams that would be the best fit for Gordon and reasons why.
- Would you trade for Gordon in a dynasty league after multiple disappointments and if so, what would you pay (be specific as possible)?
- If you wouldn't trade for Gordon, what would you need to see or hear from him to change your mind?
Let the Gordon talk begin...
Chad Parsons: Gordon falls into the what-the-heck stash zone of dynasty team-building. If I could pay a collection of picks or lower-end upside players beyond a future 2nd round rookie pick price, I would take a shot on Gordon.
There is probably a 10% shot Gordon gets back to producing in your starting lineup at a dependable click for a quality cash-out in the future by my view. So if I could pay a future 3rd and a receiver like Kendall Wright or something, I would take on Gordon.
Chris Kuczynski: As exciting as Gordon's potential is, this latest check into rehab just before he was set to return really seemed like the last straw. He hasn't played in a regular season game since 2014 and as discussed, who knows where his head is at as far as the desire to play football.
I really doubt anyone trades for him unless it is a very low conditional pick. It probably makes more sense to wait until the Browns release him then the only risk is losing out on an inexpensive 1-year deal, which probably wouldn't be until 2017.
The obvious choice here is the Patriots because of their reputation of taking in reclamation projects, but it might even be too risky for them. Another potential team could be the Cowboys after Jerry Jones was willing to go for Hardy, Gregory and Collins all of which had off the field concerns.
In dynasty, most people have one of two attitudes toward Gordon: Either you want nothing to do with him, or you have an unrealistic view of what his value is. In my dynasty league, I offered the owner Rishard Matthews just to gauge where he is at and he said no. I asked if he'd be interested in Desean Jackson (who I feel would be an overpay) and he said no to that as well, so I'm no longer trying to pry him away.
Stephen Holloway: The Ravens need more talent at wide receiver so he would fill that need. Harbaugh seems like he might be capable of changing Gordon's attitude.
I would not be interested in trading for Gordon unless the price is much lower than I expect it will be. I would also need to see him display production for at least half a season. I realize that at that point, the price of acquisition would be significantly more and I would likely again not have interest.
Matt Waldman: I'd like to make the point that I don't think Gordon's issue is an attitude problem, it's an addiction. It requires counseling, not a do-gooder coach who we see in made-for-TV movies. Gordon looked awfully good against the Buccaneers and Falcons during the preseason, so I have a pretty good idea of what he can still do as a football player.
The real issues to me are A) whether he can manage his destructive behaviors and B) whether he's capable of managing a constructive life as a pro football player.
I think a team that has veterans offering a supportive environment and informal mentoring could be helpful, but Gordon has to do the heavy lifting with his life and personal relationships away from the team. He was never a problem in the locker room or in practice. I also think he should not remotely earn any comparisons to players charged with violent crimes because those are vastly different behaviors.
I have Gordon in multiple dynasty leagues and I'm holding onto him. You have to be careful not to hold onto too many players with boom-bust potential based on ability but an uncertain future off the field. But if there is one I don't mind holding and losing big, it's Gordon.
He has proven that he can be one of the best 3-5 receivers in football and his issues actually not much different from a bevy of players past and present who get drunk and show less commitment to the game but because alcohol is legal, it can only be frowned upon and not disciplined to the same extent as marijuana.
I'm not saying Gordon doesn't have a problem. He absolutely does. I am saying that of all the problems he could have that makes him a risk, this is one of the least troubling despite the NFL's approach with him since college that could be argued as heavy-handed.
Will Grant: A couple of teams come to mind when I think of who could benefit from a healthy Josh Gordon. The 49ers are probably at the top of the list, simply because of the Chip Kelly offense and the massive lack of talent at WR that they have.
Their top WR is Jeremy Kerley and he has just 30 receptions for 330 yards and 2 TDS. The next best option is Torrey Smith who doesn’t even have 200 yards total on the season. Gordon would easily be the top receiver in this offense, and his speed would be an asset to this up-tempo offense.
I think the Bills have a whole lot of nothing after Sammy Watkins, and they are struggling now because of it. Gordon would be the No.1 guy there now as well and would make an excellent complement to Watkins when he comes back.
In a dynasty league, I wouldn’t be interested in trading for him, even at a rock-bottom price. He’s probably a free agent in many leagues, and I think you’d have to be pretty thin at WR to even consider him as a WW option.
To be of any value, Gordon would at least show up and practice. I’d have to read the reports that he’s clean and committed to playing, and practicing at a high enough level that his team would consider playing him.
Dynasty rosters are filled with guys who have potential that maybe someday, they might get a chance to play. Gordon has all the talent, but without the commitment, it’s hard to roster him over a long shot player that is working their tail off to still ‘make it’ in the NFL.
Right now, I’d rather have a practice squad player over Gordon because at least the PS guy would be hungry to play. I don’t see that with Gordon.
Chris Feery: Will nailed my two choices for the best landing spots for Gordon in the 49ers and Bills, but there’s also something intriguing about him suiting up in a Chargers uniform. It’s not hard to envision him getting on the same page with Philip Rivers quickly, and an offense that slings the rock on the regular might be a nice spot for him to fit in.
For dynasty purposes, I’m not trading for him at this point unless I can get him for a song. I was firmly in the camp of those that were hesitant on him heading into 2016, and that proved to be a prescient call. While I’m rooting for him incredibly hard on the turn your life around front, I also need to see noticeable changes in order to make an investment.
As for what I need to see or hear, it really depends on the overall vibe from Gordon himself. If he takes active steps to stay out of the spotlight or enlists a trusted mentor to help guide him through, I would consider those to be positive steps. The talent is there, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point until he gets himself focused and determined to live a different lifestyle.
Alex Miglio: The obvious, hot name is the New England Patriots. But why would they need him given Tom Brady is averaging 9.6 YPA with his current receiving corps? It would be amazing to watch Gordon tear up defenses in that offense, though. You know who could use Josh Gordon? The Cleveland Browns.
Of course, I would trade for Gordon in a dynasty league, assuming I had someone I could part with. Payment is another matter— we are obviously buying low, so it would have to be a late-round draft pick or a fringe player I haven't started in two seasons.
Matt Waldman: I'll argue that the Bills and 49ers need Gordon more than what either team can do to maximize his abilities. Of the two, I'd prefer the Bills, but only because of Tyrod Taylor's strong vertical prowess as a thrower.
Tennessee could consolidate much of its disparate parts in its receiver corps and be far more dangerous in its two and three-tight end sets with Gordon in the mix. The Titans also demand slightly more from its route tree than the Bills and Niners, which suits Gordon well.
Seattle needs an offensive line and/or healthy Russell Wilson more than Gordon, but I'd love to see a strong deep thrower and scrambler like Wilson feeding Gordon.
And yes, Alex, sadly, the Browns might have won half of its games this year if Gordon was emotionally healthy enough to play.