We are two weeks into the season and we're starting to get some clarity, which is always a good thing, no matter if it's good news or bad. It's the unknown and making important decisions involving the unknown, that makes this hobby a challenge. The more we know, the better off we are. I say we, because I'm in the middle of this journey with you. I'm learning and figuring out the intracasies of the 2016 NFL season right along with you.
In the early weeks - Weeks 1, 2 and 3 we need to absorb as much information as we can, so we can make educated, sound decisions when it comes to these five crucial determinations:
- Immediate waiver wire pickups (Chris Ivory, Quincy Enunwa, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jay Ajayi, Phillip Dorsett, Jamison Crowder, Dwayne Washington, Jerick McKinnon, Cole Beasley, Victor Cruz)
- Trade proposals / buy low (John Brown, Devin Funchess, Golden Tate, Jeremy Hill, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins)
- Proactive waiver claims (Kenneth Dixon, Rob Kelley, Isiah Pead, Josh Hill, Malcolm Mitchell, Jaelen Strong, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Thompson, Kenyan Drake, C.J. Spiller, Karlos Williams, Jonathan Williams)
- Lineup decisions
- Who to drop and who not to drop
So what do we know?
Fact: These teams are the highest scoring through the first two weeks, so the assumption is, the more players you have on these teams, the better off you are.
- 66 Carolina
- 65 San Diego
- 63 Oakland
- 62 Pittsburgh
- 61 Arizona
- 59 Atlanta, NY Jets
- 58 Philadelphia
The fewer players you have on these teams, the better off you are
- 9 LA Rams
- 15 Seattle
- 28 Chicago
- 30 Cleveland
- 32 Tennessee
- 34 Miami
Obviously, there are exceptions to both, but fantasy football is based on points scored. If you have players in your lineup who are on teams that aren't scoring (enough), it's going to hurt your chances of winning.
It's definitely a possibility, and perhaps more of a likelihood, that one or more of these teams will improve or decline in the next few weeks. Some will stay the same. It's the ebb and flow of the league. Some matchups are better than others and the results tell the tale.
But what about Devin Funchess or John Brown? They are on high scoring teams but have not yet produced to meet expectations. The key word is yet. I'd hold onto both as long as I could, because one of the worst feelings is knowing you dropped a player only to see him produce and be picked up by someone else.
Devin Funchess has three receptions and one touchdown in two games. That's not horrible, but it's not lineup worthy. So far, the Panthers passing game has been primarily Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen, but one big gain or big game could be the edge Funchess needs to become fantasy relevant. Offensive snap counts by wide receiver are currently 104 for Benjamin, 95 for Ted Ginn Jr and 92 for Funchess. He's getting reps, but he needs Cam Newton to find him for a few big plays and the volume should follow. It was Funchess who improved the most in the offseason and preseason, according to his teammates. There's a place in the offense for him, I'm confident he's a great stash and wait player. Carolina has scored the most points despite playing arguably the best defense in the league (Denver) and San Francisco, who pitched a shutout in Week 1. This week's game vs Minnesota will be another big test for the Panthers, who have not lost a home regular season game since November of 2014.
John Brown on the other hand, I'm more concerned about, but not to the point of worry. Brown has 48 fewer snaps than Michael Floyd, the Cardinals WR2, and when Arizona uses three wide receiver sets, Brown splits reps with Jaron Brown. Brown also is dealing with effects from a preseason head injury that may be giving him more problems than he or the team is willing to mention. Is he a candidate to buy low? Perhaps, but only if the offer is low.
What else do we know?
The Falcons are still using a committee approach at running back. Snap counts and carry counts slightly favor DeVonta Freeman, which is where I'm leaning. Freeman is running with more purpose and elusiveness than Coleman and he looks more comfortable doing so. Coleman hasn't shown enough escapability to make tacklers miss. Freeman is running at a lower pad level and looks to be one big run away from locking up the role.
Jeremy Hill may have more carries (20) than Giovani Bernard (10), but Bernard has a higher YPC average (4.2 vs. Hill's 2.7). Bernard also leads Hill in snaps, 75 to 58. Last week against Pittsburgh was definitely a Giovani Bernard game, but the game script may have been the reason behind his involvement. The rule of thumb around Jeremy Hill is to expect more production in games that Cincinnati should win. Last week's game did not meet that criteria and the results followed suit.
The usage of Ezekiel Elliott over Alfred Morris has largely favored Elliott, as evidenced by their snap count totals through two games: Elliott 91, Morris 24. There has been some speculation that Morris would see an increase in reps due to Elliott's ball security issues. Morris may see some additional carries here and there, but I don't see Jerry Jones favoring his backup running back over his star draft pick.
Lamar Miller has 112 offensive snaps compared to the next running back, Alfred Blue's 12 snaps. Carry count is 53 to 6 between the two. In short, Miller is the primary back by a large margin. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V are dominating targets and receptions with 19/12 and 18/9 respectively. Braxton Miller is dealing with a hamstring injury so expect to see more from Jaelen Strong.
Ameer Abdullah (foot) is likely going to miss multiple weeks, which opens the door for someone else to emerge at the position. Update: Abdullah has been placed on IR. Abdullah's injury should mean big things for Riddick, but the sneaky play may be Dwayne Washington who looked good in the preseason and scored a touchdown in Week 1. I can definitely see more involvement from him, especially as a rusher this week against Green Bay. It may not be the breakout game you're looking for, but the following week is at Chicago. With the news of Abdullah's loss, Washington becomes one of my top waiver claims this week. He has the size and ability to handle an increased role and we've already seen him find the end zone once.
Frank Gore leads all Colts running backs with 82 snaps with Josh Ferguson second on the list with 39. That may seem like a wide margin, but know this - the margin of snaps went from +36 in Week 1 to +7 in Week 2. Is Ferguson making a move for more playing time? Perhaps. Ferguson also has as many receptions as Gore (7). Something to consider as we head into Week 3 vs San Diego. Two teams scoring on average 30 points per game and allowing 35 points per game.
T.J. Yeldon has rushed for 67 yards on 28 carries in two games for an average of 2.4 YPC. He hasn't done enough at all to keep Chris Ivory on the bench. Ivory (undisclosed injury) is expected to practice this week and be likely to play this week vs. Baltimore. The Jaguars have struggle on offense, but Ivory could be the player who comes in and makes an immediate impact. If he's available, he's definitely worth a flier, because Yeldon hasn't shown much to this point.
Coby Fleener has been a disappointment so far with the Saints and it may take him some time to get fully acclimated in the offense. Keep in mind, Fleener went from Stanford to Indianapolis and essentially kept the same offensive system due to Pep Hamilton's presence as the Colts offensive coordinator from 2013 - 2015. This is his first new offense in his career since high school, which was probably a simple offense to learn. No wonder why he's struggling to learn the Saints offense. I still think he'll come around, but for now, he needs to stay out of your lineup. Josh Hill is someone I'd consider as a proactive waiver claim. He's dealing with an ankle injury now, but New Orleans has averaged 90+ receptions to the tight end position in the Sean Payton era, going back to Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham and Ben Wallace last year.
New York Giants
The Giants are almost exclusively using three wide receiver sets for every snap. In 135 offensive snaps, the wide receiver snap breakdown is 134 for Odell Beckham Jr Jr., 128 for Sterling Shepard and 124 for Victor Cruz. To me that screams value for Shepard and especially Cruz who people gave up on last year, and lowers the value of Beckham, due to the quality options available to Manning to pass to. This doesn't mean Beckham won't have big plays, but the frequency of such may take a dip compared to prior years. We've already seen that in the first two weeks.
New York Jets
The Jets look like a team that can sustain three fantasy relevant wide receivers. Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Marshall lead receiving corps in fantasy points. I expect the trio to be productive all year, barring injury. An injury to any of them would elevate the other two. Like the Giants, the Jets employ a three wide receiver set more often than not. Matt Forte looks like a first round pick, if we re-drafted after Week 2. The thoughts of a committee with Bilal Powell are a distant memory. I expect Forte to continue to be effective, provided he stays healthy.
The Seahawks are a Kenny Stills drop away from being 0-2. They have scored only 13 points this year and Tyler Lockett is not the player we expected. The offense isn't the offense we expected. The offensive line is one of the worst in the league, Thomas Rawls has averaged 1.3 yards per carry in 19 carries, leaving Christine Michael as the player the team has leaned on. Russell Wilson, gritty or not, is dealing with an ankle injury that is affecting his ability to produce. The whole Seahawks team is a buy low, but until they put points on the board, it may be wise to keep them out of your lineup.
If you started off 0-2 or 1-1, it's not too late to turn things around. Sometimes, one player in your lineup with a big game can make the difference between a win and loss. There are plenty of players who have yet to have a big week and some are probably on your roster. Make the right waiver picks and lineup decisions and don't be afraid to make a trade that could change your season for the better if he hits. Sometimes you have to overpay for the player you want, but if it works for your lineup, I say do it.
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