Footballguys Roundtable Week 8

This week's panel topics: running back situations in flux; backup quarterbacks killing fantasy value; Ted Ginn and Kenny Stills; and rookie wide receivers.

This week we discuss the following:

Running back situations in flux

Maurile Tremblay: There are a few teams that seem to be in flux at the running back position: the Packers, Vikings, Colts, Saints, and Raiders. On each team, it seems like there could be a transition in the works.

In Minnesota, are we going to start seeing more Latavius Murray and less Jerick McKinnon?

Chad Parsons: Among those backfields, I have the most conviction for how the Vikings and Saints will turn out. For the Vikings, I was on team Latavius Murray when Dalvin Cook went down. Murray has been a lead back for multiple seasons in the NFL and has prototypical size and a three-down profile. On the other hand, Jerick McKinnon had opportunities to be a 1A option in the past but has more of a change-of-pace build and style to his game. While the first game since Cook’s absence was slanted towards Jerick McKinnon, this past week saw Latavius Murray’s snap count and involvement grow. By the end of the season, I project we’ll look back at Murray as the correct answer more than McKinnon.

Jeff Haseley: I think we will continue to see a split approach with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, which isn’t good news fantasy-wise. McKinnon had a nice stretch over the last three games, but I don’t see him sustaining that level of play and production going forward. His size and frame is suited more for a complementary role, which would reduce his carries.

Justin Howe: The Vikings may be due for a slip as their quarterback carousel spins into the heart of their season. I expect Jerick McKinnon, who’s firmly entrenched as the team’s passing-down back, to prove Week 7 relatively fluky and maintain his advantage over Latavius Murray. Murray looked excellent against the Ravens, but has given us 51 career games of mostly-inefficient play—and he’s drawn just five targets through seven games thus far in 2017.

Adam Harstad: Jerick McKinnon is one of the best athletes to ever enter the NFL, but we’re quickly reaching the “he is what he is” part of his career, and it seems what he is is an explosive but inconsistent journeyman-caliber back. Neither he nor Murray is good enough to push the other one out entirely, in my opinion.

Jason Wood: The Vikings situation is a hard one to handicap. Latavius Murray was an early target to replace Adrian Peterson in free agency, but his hopes were dashed with the selection of Dalvin Cook. All looked lost until Cook got hurt, but then McKinnon—a Footballguys favorite—shined in Cook’s absence. McKinnon is the more enticing talent. Murray has the more proven pedigree. Who wins? I don’t want to sound noncommittal but I expect the Vikings will use both liberally and the better fantasy play will come down to game flow. Years ago neither would have enough touches to be fantasy starters. But in today’s reality, both will see enough work to be fringe RB2s in most weeks.

Maurile Tremblay: In New Orleans, how will the work be divided between Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara?

Chad Parsons: The Saints will be a close to 50-50 split. Mark Ingram II is more of the early-down option, but will still see a few receptions each week. They have done a fabulous job optimizing Alvin Kamara’s touches on the perimeter and in the passing game, mixing in a few traditional running plays throughout the game. Both are strong RB2 options, or better, in PPR formats as the Saints offense will run through their backs.

Jeff Haseley: New Orleans can sustain a committee approach with both Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara. Both appear to be capable of handling the role on their own (perhaps maybe Ingram more so), but the dual-threat approach is working for the Saints. I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Both backs have fantasy appeal due to the offensive success of the team that drives more scoring chances and above all, volume.

Justin Howe: The Saints backfield will always be determined by game plan and flow; we’ve seen that bear out as Mark Ingram II and Adrian Peterson have dominated snaps in solid wins over the Dolphins and Lions, while Alvin Kamara has pulled into an even timeshare in tight games against the Vikings and Packers. As the Saints approach the meat of their schedule—they have five divisional games remaining and dates with the stout run defenses of the Bills, Panthers, and Jets—I expect more focus on Drew Brees’ arm, which would mean extended run for Kamara. As an electrifying threat who flashes big-time volume, Kamara’s outlook going forward is brilliantly bright.

Adam Harstad: New Orleans has always run a committee under Sean Payton. He even platooned Ingram with clearly inferior backs like Travaris Cadet. Kamara’s emergence doesn’t mean Ingram gets phased out, it just means the guy he gets platooned with now is also worth starting in PPR leagues.

Jason Wood: I agree with my colleagues that both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II will have fantasy value for the remainder of the season. The 2019 season will belong to Kamara, but Ingram is simply too talented to not take (and earn) at least 50% of the touches this year.

Dan Hindery: I’m not sure we will see a big transition from Ingram to Kamara. A 60-40 split in favor of Ingram makes sense. Especially if the New Orleans defense continues to play well. In games where New Orleans can jump out to an early lead, Ingram is still the best option to pound the ball and run the clock. Both should be viable fantasy starters in PPR leagues.

Maurile Tremblay: In Indianapolis, will Marlon Mack supplant Frank Gore as the featured back?

Chad Parsons: The Colts have little reason not to ramp up Marlon Mack’s usage down the stretch. While inconsistent, Mack’s athleticism is overt compared to Frank Gore’s grinder profile. Also, the team is going nowhere with Andrew Luck’s return lacking a projected date and their defense is one of the worst in the NFL.

Justin Howe: Many of these dilemmas can be addressed by looking at expected game scripts. We can safely project quite a few losing weeks for the Colts down the stretch, so it’s fair to expect some uptick in usage for Marlon Mack as the primary receiving back. Mack has established himself as a dynamic receiver—far more so than Frank Gore, who’s drawn two or fewer targets in four of seven games thus far. As Chad pointed out, there’s simply no reason for the Colts to not work in Mack more and more during this lost year.

Jeff Haseley: I would be surprised if Marlon Mack doesn’t continue to see more touches at Frank Gore’s expense. Mack’s snap totals should continue to increase and he’s becoming the sole option as a pass-catching back on the team. If the Colts continue to drop down the rankings of the AFC South, we may see even more Mack, as the team will look to see what they have in their budding young back.

Adam Harstad: We’re already seeing less Frank Gore, and that trend seems unlikely to reverse itself given his age.

Maurile Tremblay: In Green Bay, is it going to be Ty Montgomery or Aaron Jones down the stretch?

Chad Parsons: I am on the side of Ty Montgomery with the qualifier when his ribs are healthy. That may be a few weeks from now, but I believe Aaron Jones is a placeholder and will get most of the snaps until Montgomery is ready to go. I suspect most will assume Aaron Jones is ‘taking over’ as the unquestioned lead back, but Jones, like Jerick McKinnon in Minnesota, has more of a 1B or committee profile than workhorse. As a result, I would be buying Montgomery in the next week or two as a play for later in the season.

Jason Wood: I’ll respectfully disagree with Chad here. I was skeptical of Ty Montgomery being a feature back from the beginning. As a former wide receiver, he’s simply not built to handle an NFL workload. We’ve already seen what an electric difference-maker he can be when given targeted carries in optimal situations. In the meantime, Aaron Jones (who was more impressive than Jamaal Williams in college) has done everything needed to cement himself as the young feature back. There’s always a chance Jones could regress or fumble his way into the doghouse, but absent that I expect him to be the primary ball-carrier for the rest of the season and for years to come.

Justin Howe: As hard as it is for the Packers to take Jones off the field right now, we should expect his rushing efficiency to dip a bit with a greater sample size, so it may grow easier as the season progresses. More importantly, we have to expect a lot of negative game flow for the Brett Hundley-led Packers, so Ty Montgomery should remain a thorn in Jones’ side in terms of snap count. There will be dynamism, of course, but perhaps less consistency as the season wears on.

Jeff Haseley: If last week is any indication of future involvement, then Aaron Jones looks to be the back to own on Green Bay. His 44-to-7 snap count lead over Ty Montgomery is one to take notice of. Jones has shown the ability to handle the loan when called upon. As long as he doesn’t have ball security issues, he looks to be the Packers back of the near future.

Adam Harstad: Honestly, Ty Montgomery has never really profiled as a featured back to me, and I would have thought the Packers agreed after they drafted two more running backs this year, but then they made him a featured back anyway. He’s still very talented, which means Jones and Montgomery will probably both have defined roles in that offense. Bad for owners, good for Green Bay.

Dan Hindery: I think Aaron Jones will end “Wally Pipping” Ty Montgomery. Montgomery has just one career game with more than 60 rushing yards. In just three starts, Jones has topped 125 rushing yards twice. Montgomery is a unique weapon out of the backfield due to his size and receiving background but he has always been miscast as a lead back. While Jones isn’t the biggest guy, he is solidly built and should be able to handle the larger part of a committee role. Expect Jones to keep seeing 15+ touches per game and producing in a Green Bay offense that should still be solid even without Aaron Rodgers.

Maurile Tremblay: Marshawn Lynch has his own personal bye this week. After he returns from his one-game suspension, will he step back into the featured role? Or will he be largely displaced by Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington (or both)?

Justin Howe: At the moment, the Marshawn Lynch experiment in Oakland looks like a silly publicity stunt more than anything, and I can’t imagine Lynch will become any more of a bell cow after his one-game suspension ends. In fact, I see the opposite coming to pass: a thoroughly split backfield that seeks to use Lynch as a 10-12 carry bruiser but turns to Richard and Washington for actual rushing efficiency. I would be fairly surprised if Richard in particular didn’t average 8-10 rushes going forward.

Adam Harstad: When Marshawn Lynch came back this year, it was a legitimate question how much he had left in the tank. At this point, the answer pretty clearly seems to be “not much.” He can still make a play or two per game that reminds you of Marshawn Lynch Classic, but he’s not the same back anymore and he won’t command the same usage.

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Backup quarterbacks killing fantasy value

Maurile Tremblay: Do Drew Stanton, Brett Hundley, and Matt Moore kill the value of the offensive players around them?

Chad Parsons: In short, yes. While I expect better games from Brett Hundley, he downshifts the expectations of Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams significantly each week. For Drew Stanton, I would not be surprised if they start Blaine Gabbert for some (or most) games the rest of the season to see if there is something there to vie for No.2 duties next year. Drew Stanton is a known commodity and that is not a good thing. Larry Fitzgerald shifts down a full tier into the WR2-WR3 zone and all other receivers are flex considerations at best.

Justin Howe: I think Hundley and Stanton do, to varying degrees. I’ve followed Hundley’s progression closely, especially through this offseason, when I provided the Packers’ training camp reports. And while he’s always flashed the occasional strong throw and bit of mobility, he’s never struck me as an effortless NFL starter. We’ve seen him faceplant through his first two major appearances, completing just 52% of his throws for an impossibly pitiful 1.42 adjusted yards per attempt. (For reference’s sake, note that DeShone Kizer currently ranks dead-last among regular starters at 2.96, more than double Hundley’s production.) And I don’t see much reason for optimism. So much of the Packers’ passing game success stems Aaron Rodgers’ greatness: his dazzling back-shoulder throws, his instinctive mobility and play extension, and his mind-meld timing with his receivers. As good as Jordy Nelson is, he’s, and I don’t consider Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, or even Ty Montgomery strong enough players to excel independently of their quarterback. All three are probably good enough to keep posting fantasy-usable numbers, but none look like week-to-week candidates for the eruptions we’re used to expecting. Simply put, every Packer comes down a notch in my expectations, and with their depressed trade value owners are likely stuck with them. It’s a bummer situation on all sides.

Stanton should be a no-brainer: he’s been objectively awful for seven NFL seasons and was even worse than Hundley in last week’s relief role. With his career 52.7% completion rate and 3.9% interception rate, we have to expect a massive downturn everywhere in this passing game, save perhaps for Larry Fitzgerald’s high volume. For the most part, we need to toss our efficiency and touchdown expectations out of the nearest window. Frankly speaking, the Cardinals might be better off with what’s left of Drew Bledsoe, or even Drew Henson, than what they’ll trot out Sunday.

Moore, on the other hand, looks like at least a steadying hand in Miami. Jay Cutler’s awful start (just 5.06 adjusted yards per attempt and seven touchdowns through six games) isn’t hard to top, of course, and Moore has been generally solid in relief work for Adam Gase. He’s put in six extended appearances since last year and posted a studly 8.60 AY/A mark, with 10 touchdowns. He looks like a slight-to-moderate boon for all Dolphins receivers; Jarvis Landry will produce PPR points with anyone, and Kenny Stills seems to have a dynamic connection with Moore. There’s not only no real drop-off here—Moore could very easily seize (and stabilize) the job for the long haul.

Jeff Haseley: I agree with Justin about the Packers and Cardinals. Hopefully the slow start we saw from complementary players in those offenses will turn around, but I am not excited about the fantasy value of Larry Fitzgerald, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb et al. with a drop-off at their quarterback position. A decline in numbers is expected. Anything else would be a surprise in my opinion.

Adam Harstad: As bad as Cutler has been, I think Matt Moore proves to be an upgrade. Drew Stanton probably sinks most of Arizona’s receivers, but (small sample size alert) Larry Fitzgerald has actually done decently with him, so I think there’s some hope there. As for Hundley... few QBs have looked better in the preseason or worse in the regular season. It won’t always be as ugly as it was last week, but it’s probably going to be pretty ugly.

Jason Wood: I know Bruce Arians has the reputation of being a quarterback whisperer, but Drew Stanton simply isn’t very good. He’s been with the Cardinals for four seasons and hasn’t completed even 50% of his passes since 2014. With a career completion rate of 52.7% and an adjusted yards per attempt of 5.1, there’s nothing hinting at even a temporary breakout. Frankly, I expect the Cardinals to hand the huddle over to Blaine Gabbert within a week or two. Gabbert is risky, and volatile, but I could see him re-invigorating the fantasy value of John Brown, in particular, in a few weeks.

Brett Hundley has a much better pedigree than Stanton, and it’s insane to give up on him based on less than two full games under center. He’s spent three seasons interning behind the league’s best quarterback, and has looked sharp executing the first team offense in the preseason. But Hundley needs to show meaningful improvement this week or it’s time to sound the alarms. His passer rating against the Vikings (39.6) was nearly identical to his passer rating against the Saints (39.9). He has been unwilling or unable to push the ball downfield. A West Coast offense can be effective without a true vertical threat, but that require precise short passing with a high completion rate. At 53% completion rate this season, Hundley is neither pushing the ball downfield nor managing the short and intermediate routes.

I’m most intrigued by Matt Moore. Some wonder why Moore wasn’t named the starter in place of Ryan Tannehill from the outset. Based on Adam Gase’ history with Jay Cutler, it stands to reason Cutler was truly the only veteran option that would’ve kept Moore from taking over; and that’s exactly what happened. Moore has a far better pedigree than Stanton. He’s a 59.4% career passer and has completed better than 62% of his throws under Gase. Last year, in four games, Moore threw for 721 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He knows the offense, has the right temperament to take chances but not irresponsibly, and has been a winner in prior starting stints.

Dan Hindery: Matt Moore won’t kill the value of the Dolphins skill position guys. In fact, there is a real chance that he boosts the Miami offense and steals the job away from Jay Cutler if he performs well over the next few games. In three starts last season, Moore played each of the Dolphins’ AFC East rivals and threw for 200+ yards and at least two touchdowns in every game (including a four touchdown game in his first start). In a little over a half after coming in for Cutler, Moore passed for 188 yards and two touchdowns. If anything, Moore may provide a small boost to the value of the Dolphins skill position players.

Meanwhile, Brett Hundley is a decent player but is obviously going to be a significant downgrade for the skill players compared to Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was such a uniquely talented quarterback who he raised the level of the entire offense. Even if Hundley is solid, we should expect a real drop off in production from Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and the rest of the pass catchers in the Packers offense.

Drew Stanton, likewise, is going to be a major downgrade for the Cardinals receivers as well. Unlike Hundley, Stanton has shown no signs of being serviceable as an NFL quarterback. Stanton is 33-years old and has more career interceptions (20) than touchdowns (14). We know what we are getting here and it is not good.

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Ted Ginn and Kenny Stills

Maurile Tremblay: Ted Ginn started his career in Miami and is now in New Orleans. Kenny Stills started his career in New Orleans and is now in Miami. They strike me as similar players in other ways as well—as low-floor, high-ceiling guys with deep speed but inconsistent hands. They both had huge games last week. What’s their fantasy outlook going forward?

Chad Parsons: Both Ted Ginn and Kenny Stills are in the flex zone of lineup considerations. I side more with Ginn as I trust Drew Brees’ WR2-WR3 to pop for big games more frequently than Matt Moore and potentially Jay Cutler in a few weeks. DeVante Parker will also be back, pushing Stills down the depth chart. While Willie Snead IV is returning for the Saints, Ginn is the lone speed option of the offense and has a specific role. Stills does not have the same monopoly on a role and the shared pie is in a smaller baking pan.

Justin Howe: I’m loving Stills’ ceiling down the stretch. We’ve all heard the backup QB-backup WR narrative for years, and there may or may not be anything to it on a global scale. But Stills has clearly been a favorite of interim quarterback Matt Moore; over Moore’s six relief starts since last season, Stills has drawn 20.8% of team targets and averaged 65.3 yards per contest, with six touchdowns. Considering that Jay Cutler looks down for multiple weeks, Stills looks like an upside WR3 through the bye-week minefield. And considering that Cutler has been abysmal as a Dolphin, and that Moore holds a decent chance of holding the job long-term, Stills looks like the week’s strongest waiver claim and an incredibly sexy buy-low.

Ginn intrigues me far less; I’m not sure what his role will be once Willie Snead IV is up to speed, and Ginn carries very little track record to bank on. He was a fun spark plug in Carolina, but all told, this is a guy who caught just 47 passes from non-Panthers quarterbacks since 2010, a span of 56 games. I’m sure he’ll create a firework or two for this Saints offense down the stretch, but beyond the bye weeks, when will we confidently use him?

Jeff Haseley: I like Ted Ginn’s chances of sustained value more than Stills’ chances, but even Ginn will have down weeks here and there, which means his fantasy value will ebb and flow as the season continues. He’s no more than a flex option for me and Stills is slightly lower down the ranks.

Adam Harstad: Drew Brees loves himself a situational deep threat— in addition to those two, we’ve seen Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore all thrive in the role. Which is all well and good for Ted Ginn, who gets to keep Drew Brees and could be a WR3 option going forward. It’s less good for Kenny Stills.

Jason Wood: I’m not sure I agree about their situations. On the surface, I concur both have wide ranges of possible weekly outcomes. Neither are their teams most talented or targeted receivers, which means game script and defensive matchups will make them boom-or-bust. But Ginn plays with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history while Stills plays with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore. Based on the overall performance of the Saints and Dolphins offenses, I would say Stills has a greater shot at a complete washout any given week than does Ginn. What’s been surprising to many is Ginn’s role as the WR2 in New Orleans. Most thought Michael Thomas would build of a stellar rookie season as the #1 and Willie Snead IV would return as the #2. Snead hasn’t won back the coaches’ trust and Ginn has risen to the occasion. Stills looked like the odd man out with Cutler, but came back to life with Moore last week. Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker are talented, too, but we can’t discount Stills and Moore’s rapport.

I would also point out Stills has been a significantly more productive scorer throughout his career, although one might argue that’s because he benefited from Drew Brees in his early years. Stills has scored 24 touchdowns in 69 career games versus Ginn’s 27 touchdowns in 157 games. Night and day.

For the rest of the season, I’ll give Ginn the edge because of the quarterback and the offense. But I do think Stills can be a fringe WR2 and a solid WR3 for the remainder of the season if Matt Moore holds onto the starting role in Miami.

Dan Hindery: Stills has benefitted from DeVante Parker being out and should see his touches fall whenever Parker returns. Longer-term, Stills is the third wheel (behind Parker and Jarvis Landry) in a passing offense that doesn’t have enough volume to support three fantasy-relevant pass catchers. He will catch the occasional deep touchdown but won’t see enough targets to feel good about putting into your starting lineup.

Ginn’s situation is much more intriguing for the rest of the season. It was assumed he would fall to third wheel with the return of Willie Snead IV after suspension. But Snead is injured and seems to be having a tough time getting on track this season. Ginn has a great shot of holding onto the #2 role in the New Orleans offense for the rest of the season. Clearly, the Saints passing offense has enough volume to support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers and Ginn has a shot to put together a top-25 fantasy season.

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Rookie wide receivers

Maurile Tremblay: Corey Davis, Cooper Kupp, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay, Mike Williams, and John Ross are all on waiver wires in numerous fantasy leagues. Which ones make for the best stashes with an eye toward fantasy contributions over the second half of the season, especially in the fantasy playoffs?

Jeff Haseley: Players that I would target specifically for playoff production are Corey Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kenny Golladay. All three are key contributors in the red zone, and scoring opportunities are a big part of what I look for in a playoff lineup.

Maurile Tremblay: Corey Davis looks ready to come back from his hamstring injury after the bye, and the Titans need a number one receiver as Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker have generally disappointed.

Chad Parsons: Corey Davis has the highest upside down the stretch. Eric Decker looks to have lost a step and has done nothing to warrant an elevated role once Davis returns.

Jeff Haseley: I love me some Corey Davis. Top five wide receiver draft picks just don’t grow on trees. They are a rare and talented breed and Corey Davis is no different. His preseason hamstring injury and Week 1 re-injury have set him back, but he is expected to return after the Week 8 bye. Those who stashed him on their roster are likely to reap the rewards.

Dan Hindery: Corey Davis is the rookie wide receiver most worth targeting. The Titans passing offense has been struggling. Rishard Matthews is just an average talent. Eric Decker and Delanie Walker do not look like the same players they were in their younger years. The path is wide open for Davis to quickly emerge as the #1 target for Marcus Mariota.

Jason Wood: Have Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker disappointed, or has Marcus Mariota disappointed? Mariota and the entire Titans offense is a shell of last year’s breakout unit. I can’t say I have a good explanation for why “exotic smashmouth” is failing this year, but I don’t feel particularly confident that Corey Davis will be the difference. Make no mistake, I like Davis’ chances in dynasty formats and see him as a multi-year fantasy WR1 eventually. But I’m not willing to bet on a strong second half.

Maurile Tremblay: Cooper Kupp has gotten more targets than any rookie who isn’t Evan Engram, and the Rams’ offense is heating up. What are his prospects down the stretch?

Chad Parsons: Cooper Kupp and Juju Smith-Schuster are in the same, lower upside, bucket in the WR3-WR4 range for strong fantasy teams. Kupp has a better chance to be the No.1 option for his team, but paired with Jared Goff is not as appealing as Ben Roethlisberger from an upside standpoint.

Jeff Haseley: I said before the season that Cooper Kupp could reach 60 receptions. So far through seven games he is on pace for 52.5 receptions. If he continues to develop, that number could increase. I like the role he’s playing for the Rams, but there are times when he’s been the open receiver and Jared Goff did not get him the ball. Fifty catches for a rookie wide receiver is impressive, but it’s not spectacular. In order for him to have more fantasy value in the second half of the season, he’s going to have to increase those numbers.

Jason Wood: Cooper Kupp has been good. He hasn’t been great, but he’s done enough to make his pre-draft supporters feel vindicated. Through seven weeks, Kupp has a 55% catch rate and that needs to improve if he’s to grow into a #1 role with the Rams. But he’s scored three times already and has flashed big-play potential. With the Rams offense clicking and Sean McVay earning every dollar of his head coaching contract, I think it’s reasonable to forecast continued growth from Kupp.

Maurile Tremblay: JuJu Smith-Schuster is growing into a bigger role with the Steelers as Martavis Bryant is on the outs. Anyone like him over the second half of the season?

Chad Parsons: Juju Smith-Schuster will, at best, be the No.2 option behind Antonio Brown. Historically, it is tough to be more than a low-WR2 on a similar depth chart. I am not worried about Martavis Bryant impacting Smith-Schuster’s chances as they are polar opposite profiles with Bryant a boom-or-bust receiver (more athleticism than production in college) and Smith-Schuster has one of the highest production scores in my study dating back to his 17-year-old phenom season at USC. Bryant will have a tough time logging more snaps or targets than Smith-Schuster for the rest of the season.

Justin Howe: I like Smith-Schuster, of course, but I love him if Martavis Bryant is traded or further phased out (and in fact it looks like he’ll be a healthy scratch this week). Smith-Schuster has vanquished Eli Rogers in the Steelers slot plans, and he’s shown dynamism, with three touchdowns and six receptions of 15+ yards on just 26 targets. But Bryant continues to soak up a ton of snaps—69 over the last two games—snaps that would push Smith-Schuster’s usage into fantasy-usable territory. If we could project him confidently to take over a proportionate chunk of Bryant’s role, we could add roughly 25 weekly snaps to his plate and start expecting big games.

Jeff Haseley: The Steelers look to be moving away from Martavis Bryant and gravitating to Smith-Schuster. As a rookie, he has outperformed expectations and looks to be a key player in the Steelers offense, especially in the red zone. I expect to see more of that in the second half of the season.

Jason Wood: I know there seems to be a narrative that JuJu Smith-Schuster is growing into a larger role, but the numbers don’t bear that out—yet. His targets this season are as follows: 0, four, six, four, six, three, three. In other words, Smith-Schuster has seen less work in the last few weeks not more. That said, I’ll acknowledge that Bryant’s histrionics do increase the potential for Smith-Schuster to grow into a true #2 role. For me the larger question is what’s the value of the Steelers WR2? Roethlisberger is struggling, and Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell’s roles are ironclad. I’m not prioritizing Smith-Schuster, at least in comparison to some of the other promising rookies on the list.

Maurile Tremblay: Kenny Golladay has been held out with a hamstring injury but should be back on the field this week. Will he have a major role in the Lions’ passing game?

Justin Howe: I’m always interested in dynamic touchdown threats, so Golladay will at least be on my radar all year. Golladay drew a ton of fantasy attention during his breakout preseason and a Week 1 that saw him catch two touchdowns, and while he’s produced nothing of note since, there’s lots of reason for optimism. It’s worth pointing out that, in his last game (Week 3), he notched just 25 yards on two catches but was targeted twice in the red zone (once from inside the 5). The Lions are struggling through the air and feature little in terms of downfield dynamism or red zone dominance, so Golladay should have at least a niche role

Jeff Haseley: Kenny Golladay could have an immediate impact in his return this week as Golden Tate nurses a shoulder injury. Golladay has the skills to make plays all over the field, especially if given a decent number of targets. His biggest strength may be his presence in the red zone. He showed this in the preseason as well as Week 1.

Jason Wood: Kenny Golladay intrigues me the most of all these rookies. He was a preseason favorite, and then lived up to the hype with a dominant first week of the regular season. The hamstring injury curtailed the excitement and Golladay was back on waivers in most fantasy leagues. He should return this week coming off a bye while Golden Tate could miss multiple weeks. I would much rather throw a dart at Golladay as a breakout star than veteran Marvin Jones Jr.

Maurile Tremblay: Mike Williams is recovered from his back injury and is being slowly worked into the Chargers’ offense. Is he worth a stash?

Dan Hindery: After Corey Davis, Mike Williams is the next player from this group that I’d want to target. The outlook isn’t quite as bright for Mike Williams as it is for Corey Davis, but he at least has a clear path to emerging as the #2 wide receiver in a pass-heavy San Diego offense. Keenan Allen should remain Philip Rivers’ go-to guy. Tyrell Williams has been inconsistent and seems to go in and out of favor with the coaches. San Diego traded Dontrelle Inman today, which is a great sign that the team is confident with Mike Williams moving forward. Williams is a jump ball specialist who should be extremely productive in the red zone and his touchdown upside should make him an intriguing fantasy option down the stretch.

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