The Best Of Week 2

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles. 

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week. 

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.  

Tarik Cohen Debate (And a larger Debate about Free agent bidding)

One of the most important decisions of any fantasy season is who to acquire and how much to spend. The opening week performance of Bears running back Tarik Cohen hits a lot of pressure points of the decision-making matrices that the fantasy community uses to determine a worthwhile investment.

Because he's a 5'6", 179-pound rookie from a small school who is listed as a reserve behind an established fantasy starter with a first-round ADP, Cohen's waiver wire value is a polarizing issue. The Footballguys staff engaged in an extended roundtable debate about Cohen's value on the field and waiver wire bidding strategies that every fantasy owner should read. 

I'm only providing highlights of this roundtable exchange

Waldman: The rookie runner from North Carolina A&T surprised many with his production and workload against the Falcons in the opener. First, is Cohen for real or fool's gold. Second, if you presume he's for real on the level of acquiring him for a fantasy roster, how much should fantasy owners spend on him? 

Harstad: Fool's Gold in the sense that his week 1 performance was ludicrously unsustainable on a ton of levels. He had a 46-yard run, which isn't going to happen every week. He had 12 targets on 22 routes, which is just absurd. Antonio Browndoesn't even get targeted more than 50 percent of the time when he's out in a pass pattern. Unless something dramatic changes, it's a good bet that the opener was Cohen's best week of the season.

But in the sense that Tarik Cohen plays a role that has a solid track record of producing fantasy value in PPR leagues, he's for real. We've seen Danny WoodheadTheo RiddickDarren Sproles, and more make a living as starting-caliber fantasy RBs basically off of five receptions a game and a handful of carries. Especially given how dire Chicago's receiver situation is, it wouldn't surprise me if Cohen finished with 64-80 receptions, which is free money in PPR.

Tremblay: In terms of talent, Cohen looks like he is for real. That's not good news for Cohen's immediate fantasy value so much as it is bad news for Jordan Howard's fantasy value. Howard is still the lead back, but Cohen will get significant touches, especially in the passing game. I won't go so far as to call this a full-blown committee situation, but as long as both backs stay healthy, I think Howard's value is appreciably depressed by Cohen's presence. Cohen won't get enough touches to make him a fantasy starter, however, except in deep point-per-reception leagues. He's worth picking up as a handcuff to Howard (or as a lottery ticket that would pay off if Howard misses games) if you have space on your roster.

Wood: Fool's gold unless Jordan Howard gets hurt. He's a small guy in a secondary role on a team that will be in very few advantageous game scripts. I like the talent, but you specifically want us to weigh in on the fantasy outlook. Cohen will be a bye-week level talent barring injury. Now, is he worth claiming on waivers? Absolutely! Most leagues are deep enough that key backups are rostered and Cohen showed he can be a viable fantasy commodity if given the opportunity.

However, seeing people advocate fantasy owners pay 40-50 percent of FAAB on Cohen pains me. 

Howe: Yep. Shortsighted as can be.

Phil Alexander: Disagree. Why can't he maintain low-end RB2 production in PPR? There's a major target void in that offense and a lack of play makers outside of him and Howard.

Simon Shepherd: A low PPR RB2 is not worth 40-50 percent of FAAB

Alexander:  A low PPR RB2 is more of a floor by virtue of receptions. We've seen him flash a much higher ceiling already. And I don't know that 40-50 percent for a RB2/flex isn't worth it if you drafted David Johnson or are otherwise hurting at RB.

Wood: Spending 50 percent of your FAAB for a "low RB2," at best? Ridiculous. The guy is built like Darren Sproles and is the clear No.2 back on an offense that should be largely ineffective and at disadvantageous game scripts. You're FAR more likely to have a true stud emerge in the coming weeks and your FAAB budget is better saved for that. As I said on Twitter 20 times in the last 24 hours, no one is replacing David Johnson. Just because you spend on Tarik like he's a stud doesn't make him one. To me telling people to spend that much on a smurf is legitimately bad advice. If you have regular waivers? Cool. If you can spend 15%-20% of FAAB? OK. But 50%+ is negligent.

Adam Harstad: My FAAB philosophy is that 50 percent of big-ticket FAAB adds are total trash, 90 percent of non-big-ticket FAAB adds are trash, and the "trash rate" of mid-tier FAABs and FCFS adds are basically indistinguishable. So find a guy you like in the first three weeks and blow your entire budget on him, and if all you get is a low-end season-long starter, that's still a win. Jason, Whether you spend 20 percent on Cohen or 50 percent on Cohen, that's enough to take you out of the running for the "true stud that will emerge in the next couple weeks" that you advocate saving your FAAB for.

Wood: I think we need to contextualize roster size here. In a 14-team league with 18 roster spots, I agree the chances a difference maker crop up on waivers are slim. But most of our guys play in 10- and 12-team leagues with smaller rosters. There are legitimate PLAYERS on waivers and injuries pretty much create new stars every week or two. Those guys should not be dropping 50 percent on Tarik Cohen!  

Alexander: Totally with Adam here. FAAB is an overrated commodity

Wood: Very few fantasy owners are willing or able to spend 80-100 percent of their budget on anyone, even a stud. Dropping 50 percent on a guy like Cohen is far more limiting than 20%. If FAAB is an overrated commodity, why do most championship rosters look markedly different than the did on draft day? 

Harstad: I'm less defending Cohen in particular and more defending the idea with limp bids of 20 percent. If you like a guy, go get him. Otherwise, 20 percent blows your chances at a primo FAAB down the pike every bit as much as 50 percent does.

Wood: Again, I have to ask, if FAAB is an overrated commodity, why do most championship rosters look markedly different than the did on draft day? 

Harstad: They don't, really. I'd wager 80 percent of fantasy starters were drafted. Chase Stuart won FESL without making a single bid last year. And I'm not saying that guys won't emerge. I'm saying historically the guys you spend $20 aren't any more likely to emerge than the guys you spend $1 on.

Alexander: Some of the best waivers adds made are made mid-week when unexpected news breaks on a player after waivers have run. Not having FAAB doesn't eliminate the possibility of making impact waiver moves

Harstad: Most of the big breakout stars you're going to wind up with are guys you picked up a week early for free—Ty Montgomery last year. I'd wager most teams who got him got him really, really cheap. By the time he was worth blowing serious FAAB coin on, he was already on a roster. 

Daniel Simpkins: I grabbed Cohen at 10 percent of my budget this past week in Scott Fish Bowl VII because I saw the writing on the wall from preseason.

Wood: I remember having this same argument with Sigmund Bloom when James Starks was worth "breaking the bank" and Donte Moncrief was worth "all your budget." It sounds savvy in theory, but in practice, it's bad advice. Daniel is doing it right. Grab a guy before you have to overpay.

Harstad: Right. Most of this year's true breakout stars are going to be telegraphed and grabbed pre-breakout. If one slips through and has a huge game, blow your budget on him because it won't hurt your ability to grab other telegraphed breakout stars pre-breakout. Look, even most high-budget FAAB picks are going to flop. Nature of the game. I'd say it's 50/50 whether Cohen is useful this season. But like I said, the non-high-budget FAABs have substantially worse odds. You're paying big for crap odds because the alternative is paying little for super-crap odds. (And if you really want super-crap odds, you can get those for free.)

Wood: This is one of those philosophical debates without a clear "winner." I'm not at all against breaking the bank on a FAAB player. I am against breaking the bank on Tarik Cohen in Week One as that FAAB player. 

Alexander: Does he not catch at least five passes per game going forward and with a Tyreek HIll-style, big-play potential each time he touches the ball? I feel like that's more than many folks are getting from their RB2 in 12 team PPR leagues.

Harstad: Maybe. Although I'll say I've loved the "gadget player" discount on Danny WoodheadDarren Sproles, and Theo Riddick over the years, and could easily see Cohen following their example. What would you set the over/under on his receptions per game average the rest of the way, Jason?

Wood: Cohen will earn 50 catches.

Harstad: Woof, so there's the difference, Jason. You've got him at 3.33 catches per game the rest of the way. If that's the case, he's garbage and not worth spending on. If someone thinks he's getting more in the 4-5 range, that's totally worth half the budget.

Simpkins: I think that's a bit low on Cohen considering how few healthy bodies they have now. They'll manufacture touches for Cohen. What else are they going to do?

Alexander: That's where I'm coming from, Daniel.

Harstad: Running backs averaged 2.03 fantasy points per reception last year and .605 fantasy points per rush in PPR leagues. Give Cohen 5 rushes and 5 receptions a game at league averages and that's 13.175 points per game or 210.8 per 16 games. 210.8 fantasy points were in the Isaiah Crowell / Todd Gurley range last year, RB14/15. I'm not saying that's my projection. I'm saying that's a reasonable point in his range of outcomes. Five receptions and five rushes seem doable. Don't know if he can stand up to it, but Chicago's receiving corps is trash.

For the last two years, Theo Riddick has averaged 13.16 points per game...bang on that "5 rushes + 5 receptions" projection. Like I said, this is a not-at-all-unreasonable outcome. Meanwhile, here are the Footballguys Staff League FAAB Totals from last year. Find a decent guy who you'd lose out on by bidding 50+% on Cohen today  I mean, you left 24 percent of your FAAB unspent last year, Woodrow. League-wide, 49 percent of FAAB went unspent in FESL last year, and that total would have been higher if teams hadn't been blowing money late in the year because it's not like there's any point in saving it.

Shepard: I can think of plenty of RB1s who have come from waivers in years past that you'd be missing out on. DeMarco Murray and the first year of Peyton Hillis spring to mind. 

Harstad: I'm not saying that nobody emerges from Waivers. But (A) in many leagues, Murray and Hillis were added super-cheap before they started throwing up massive games, and (B) if they weren't added before they started throwing up big games, then you'd have to blow a huge percentage of your budget on them. Again, supporting my thesis that the value in FAAB is on the cheap fliers and the high-dollar adds, not the "middle tier" of guys worth 20-30 percent of your budget. The middle tier doesn't exist. (Also, who's to say that a year from now we aren't talking about Tarik Cohen as one of those top RBs available on waivers who you could only get if you were willing to throw some serious budget at him?)

Wood: We're speaking about advice for OUR SUBSCRIBER BASE, Footballguys Staff Leagues and other shark leagues often don't apply here because they are deep leagues where the concept of sleepers falling through the cracks does not exist. You're arguing for apple sauce by showing us a basket of peaches. If our staff league was applicable to the average league, David Dodds wouldn't take kickers in the 12th round and I wouldn't handcuff my quarterbacks.

Harstad: For me, the point still stands. The very best additions were super-cheap guys. Pasquino got Ty Montgomery right before his big fantasy playoff output for $1. This isn't unique to FESL. This is how all leagues are.
 
Maybe our subscribers aren't playing in shark leagues where teams are adding sleepers in advance, but our subscribers subscribe to Footballguys, which advocates adding sleepers weeks in advance, so theoretically they are doing this even if their league mates are not. This just strengthens the case that they'll be able to get plenty of value down the line on minimum-bid FAAB, so why not blow a huge chunk on a guy if they like him?

Wood: If you think Cohen is more likely than other options in coming weeks to be a fantasy relevant player, cool. I do not. It's really as simple as that. 

Shepard: Another way of looking at this...my expected yield from the waiver wire is so far above two Tarik Cohens in a season. Even excluding pre-emptive pickups. Everyone but DJ owners will still have two-plus RBs they are very hopeful will provide starter numbers. I can see 50 percent for a desperate DJ owner who under-drafted bench RBs but for sure no-one else in standard leagues. But with a healthy Howard, Cohen surely does not have high RB2 upside even in PPR leagues.
 
Harstad:  Do you not think he has five-reception per game upside in that offense with those receivers?
 
Shepard: He's listed as the No. 20 RB in PPR (so much lower in standard leagues) for Week 2. Your upside numbers don't have him as a higher multiplier than anyone else which as the RB2 on his team I would agree with. No. 20 is low-RB2 or marginal RB2 in 10-team leagues. So I don't think he has high RB2 upside in even the most favorable leagues, without an injury to Howard (and even then, I doubt it as he doesn't seem to have the physical size to deal with 15-plus touches week-to-week. 
 

Harstad: Are you looking at the right upside values, Simon? I put in a 1.2 upside multiplier for Cohen this week, which is one of the higher values of the week.

(Players with uncertain roles get higher multipliers because the multiplier is really just quantifying uncertainty.)
 
But again, we're talking about upside. If a guy is projected as RB20, his upside is higher than RB20. If he finishes 4 spots higher than expected, he's RB16, which I'd call a "high RB2". So my multipliers aside, "high RB2 production" seems to be firmly within his range of possible outcomes in PPR leagues.
 
Shepard: Ah, my bad! I was using the wrong app version. All the same, I think with his physical size and place on the depth chart, the Sproles role is the correct comparison, on a worse offense than Sproles has ever played on. And historically he's had kick/punt returns too (I don't know for sure that he didn't handle these at the weekend, but he's listed as the third string kick returner on the Bears depth chart)
 

Harstad: Cohen handles punt returns.

Waldman: I appreciate all of your data, but I'm going to ignore it for a bit to present a different case based on what's happening on the field. I don't mean that to sound dismissive. I think a different context provides a compelling argument. While this situation will be an anomaly if Cohen has success on a level worth a significant FAAB spend, it's worth noting that Chicago used Cohen in multiple ways on the offense in Week 1. A team doesn't line a guy up in four different spots in the offense without knowing he's ready to handle these roles.

This isn't Chicago gashing Atlanta with the Wildcat eight times in a game because they found a weakness and then they'll be caught trying to go to the well too often with one type of play or concept and opponents catch on after 3-4 weeks. This is more McCaffrey-like in usage and planning. It's a conscious decision to feature Cohen because the Bears receivers were an open casting call this spring and none of them stand out.

Warrick Dunn was less than 180 pounds when he was a feature back for Dan Reeves in ATL and a top-15 option when injuries struck. He was also a good fantasy back in Tampa for years during a time when the NFL was nastier than now. The Bears need a game-breaker when you examine how personnel is supposed to help the scheme. Jordan Howard isn't that guy. Miller can be that guy in 1-2 very specific situations but needs additional personnel to open that up for him to do.

Cohen can be that guy as a Danny Woodhead-like producer, who was the No. 3 PPR RB in 2015--thanks again to injury/paucity of surrounding talent. The risk for most, which I understand, is that Howard isn't hurt and people think RB-to-RB replacement as opposed to seeing Cohen as a hybrid player who will earn those targets. I think the 50 catches projection for Cohen is low. I'd set the baseline at 64 and the ceiling at 80. 

Harstad: Here's the thing about the Bears: their top two receivers are on IR. They're now throwing to Kendall Wright, who hasn't topped 500 yards since 2014, and Deonte Thompson, a kickoff return specialist who doesn't have 500 yards in his 5-year career. I think Cohen is going to be a big part of their passing game and 80 receptions this year wouldn't surprise me in the slightest, and 80 receptions practically guarantee top-notch RB2 production in PPR.

If he keeps punt returns going forward, that doesn't necessarily mean anything either way. Plenty of critical offensive/defensive players also handle returns: Tyreek HillAntonio Brown, to a lesser extent even someone like Ted Ginn Jr. But in another way, punt returns are definitely the canary in the coal mine. If he ever loses punt return duties, acquire him ASAP, because he is going to have a monster year on offense. Teams only take electric guys like Cohen off of returns because they plan on dramatically upping his usage on offense.

Waldman: I agree with a higher than average possibility for 80 catches. Cohen doesn't fit into data models in any traditional way.  He's too short, too light, HBCU college program, a second RB who may not really fit as a traditional RB and on a team that is using him differently than many RBs are used. When you see the exception to the model, do you dismiss it or explore why that it is the case?

Tyreek Hill is 5-10, 185 pounds. He was an RB at Ok St before converting to WR. Cohen is are far more compact player based on height/weight dimensions. He's a more densely muscular player. Will he run over LBs? No. But he's tough to wrap and he carried the load at A&T. He broke multiple tackles because defenders can't hit him high and bring him to the ground. This was the case at A&T and will remain the case.

I'm not worried about punishment compared to any other NFL player. The issue is usage, and whether the Bears intend to use him as a featured contributor in the offense. If you think the answer is "no," I can understand that argument. I'm willing to be open to the exceptional due to the circumstances, but it is a steep investment to consider.

If you're an owner who prefers to let everyone screw up around you and make reasonable moves with the hope of winning (kind of Wood's argument), a Cohen type player is not worth your money even if he proves that he is in this instance. If you're an owner who believes you're in a league with a bunch of guys who are playing tight like Wood and they have strong teams, then sometimes you have to make moves that can potentially "Dominate the Dominator mentality.

Tremblay: Adam, you say, "We see this every year. One-week sample sizes are stupidly small. A lot of crazy, crazy stuff happens in any given week. But when we're only one week into the season, we haven't had a chance for things to even out, and that crazy-small one-week sample is also the entire leaderboard. Player values were generated over 8 months of arguing and drafting and consensus-building over the offseason. Don't throw that away over four or five plays made over 60 minutes of football."

Of the two basic kinds of overreaction—overreaction to a weak performance and overreaction to a strong performance—the first is much more harmful.

I spoke to a fantasy football novice this week who was thinking about starting Terrance West over Le'Veon Bell in Week 2. Probably nobody reading this would overreact that badly, but if Bell continues to disappoint over the next couple weeks, it may be tempting to bench him—or worse, trade him—for somebody in the low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 range. That's a terrible mistake. Don't let a few bad weeks eradicate a strong preseason consensus.

Overreacting the other way, by picking up a flash in the pan coming off of his surprise performance, is seldom a mistake in leagues with first-come, first-serve waiver-wire procedures (as opposed to free-agent bidding). A week-one wonder won't pan out often, but neither will the guy on the end of your bench that you dropped for him. The few times a surprise player does pan out more than pays for the cost of all the misses. Remember Kurt Warner's first NFL start? He threw for 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns, but people didn't believe the hype, so he stayed on the waiver wire in many leagues for several more weeks. One Kurt Warner makes up for 50 Kevin Ogletrees. (He was surprisingly the top fantasy WR in Week 1 of 2012, then was pretty much worthless the rest of the season.)

Go ahead, pick up Alex SmithTrevor SiemianKenny GolladayNelson AgholorTarik Cohen, and Bennie Fowler this week. They all have better upside potential than the last guy on your bench. 

Harstad: Totally agree. At the top of your roster, what matters most is what's likely. At the bottom of your roster, what matters most is what's possible. If the guys on the end of the bench perform as expected, they're all unstartable scrubs. You need to bet on guys who you might possibly be wrong about, instead.

My Take: If fantasy owners fell along a spectrum, we could use Harstad and Wood as polar opposites when it comes to free agent bidding. Harstad's philosophy is that it's a bigger mistake not to bid strongly for a player fantasy owners believe can be a game-changer and aggressive bids—even if it means going all-in on a player—is safer than limping in with a 20-30% bid of a budget because most of the season-changing players show up during the first month of the year. 

Wood believes that it's prudent to save one's free agent budget so one can acquire multiple players with pedigrees that have less risk. Harstad is playing to win big at the risk of losing big. Wood is playing to win big by counting on others to make mistakes that he won't make. 

Both strategies are valid. I compete with these two writers in the staff league they discussed. I've gone to the semifinals during two of the past three seasons. Both times, I had significant free agent additions. One of those times, I had 2-3 selections from the waiver wire throughout the year that elevated my team's performance. Last year, I made a pre-emptive pickup of Jay Ajayi after Sigmund Bloom dropped him. I've also hurt myself in the past going all-in on a bid for Josh Gordon

Based on my perspective as a film analyst, I believe Cohen is a better investment than the stats modeling end of our fantasy staff believes but I understand that for Cohen to succeed, he's an exceptional case. If you're a play-it-safe owner and that's your strategy, be true to your strategy and resist the temptation to take him.

If you're a risk-reward style of an owner, Cohen is the type of option you'll covet. If you fall somewhere and your decision-making style range somewhere in between, understand that going strong for Cohen means you're counting on him to become the exception to the rule in terms of usage based on his depth chart role and production based on his size.

I believe there's a compelling argument that he is exceptional based on my work as a film analysts. Cohen was my top scheme-based talent in the 2017 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. However, I play in shark leagues where I'm trying to dominate fantasy owners whose collective work is the Draft Dominator. For many of you, it's safer to go Wood's route of letting others screw up to your benefit.     

Two From the trenches

Matt Bitonti and Justis Mosqueda author a fantastic column called In The Trenches. Bitonti specializes in offensive line play. Mosqueda, who is the creator of Force Players, and analysis that has a high rate of success at predicting edge rushing prospects, handles the defensive line in this piece.

This pair will unearth analysis that will be the basis for many strong or week outcomes for fantasy options based on what matters most: the line of scrimmage.

Here are two examples:  

OFFENSIVE LINE MATCHUPS TO TRUST

OAK 3rd offensive line home vs. NYJ 25th defensive front (OAK +22)

NEW YORK (A) @ OAKLAND 
SUNDAY 4:05 PM ET

JM: The Buffalo Bills, who are allegedly “tanking,” just beat the New York Jets by multiple scores in the season opener. After a horrible preseason, quarterback Tyrod Taylor averaged eight yards a pass, without his projected #1 receiver entering the summer, while the Bills also ran for 190 yards.

The Jets still don't have much of a pass-rush, though Leonard Williams is one of the best young linemen in the league. Muhammad Wilkerson still has a lot of quit on him if he doesn't win on his first two or three steps, but Josh Martin could be a run-stopping outside linebacker to watch. One good player and two potentially one-sided players do not make a good unit, though. Derek Carr may come out of this game with a clean jersey.

BIT: The Raiders' offensive line has looked outstanding since Left tackle Donald Penn returned to the lineup. News sources have Penn and the team nearing a two-year contract extension. Center Rodney Hudson had one of Geoff Schwartz "Disrespectful Blocks of the Week" against the Titans defensive front. The Jets inside linebackers filled up the stat sheet last week but many of the tackles were way downfield. Guards Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele get to the second level as well as any duo  in the league, look for the Raiders' offense to put up video game numbers at home against the New York Jets.  

DEFENSIVE FRONT MATCHUPS TO TRUST

Chicago 9th defensive front vs. Tampa Bay 23rd offensive line (CHI +14)

CHICAGO @ TAMPA BAY 
SUNDAY 1 PM ET

JM: In the last couple of weeks, the world has learned about Akiem Hicks. Hicks is one of the best linemen in the sport, but just after a year and change after coming to Chicago on the cheap, he signed a “surprising” extension right before the season. He then “surprisingly” dominated Atlanta's offensive line.

This shouldn't have been a surprise. He's been great for over a year. That probably means that Leonard Floyd, and his Gumby pass-rushing style, and Eddie Goldman, a rising star who was injured last year, get discovered this week in Tampa Bay's season opener. Quietly, the Bears have one of the best front sevens in football, though they'll have to replace starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman this season after losing starting inside linebacker Danny Trevathan for seven games in 2015.

BIT:  With the hurricane bye in week 1, we don't have film on the Buccaneers. It's a mixed group,  good news and bad news with Tampa Bay offensive line this season.  While still raw, Ali Marpet at center brings a rare bulk to the position. Donovan Smith is a decent pass blocker at left tackle but his run blocking needs work. Demar Dotson at right tackle has an opposite skill set and could be in an age-related decline. The matchup to watch is Akiem Hicks against right guard J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy missed all of the last season with a back injury. While he looked decent in preseason, the regular season will be the final obstacle to Sweezy's physical rehabilitation. 

My Take: Marshawn Lynch may not be earning a high volume as the Raiders ease him back into pro football, but he offers fantasy owners another reasonable risk as a flex-play with RB2 upside against this Jets unit. He'll set the tone in the first quarter and close out the game in the fourth. A touchdown is definitely possible. 

Carr could have a 300-yard game and multiple touchdowns, including 1-2 huge plays thanks to Lynch and the Raiders line establishing the run to set up the play-action pass. I would be excited for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree this week.

I like Jacquizz Rodgers as a football player and he'll have more success than Tevin Coleman last week because Rodgers has the footwork/agility to do things closer to the realm of Devonta Freeman. However, I wouldn't be counting on him as more than an RB3 and I'd consider other options with better matchups.  

I would still roll with Jameis Winston, but it will be an up-and-down affair. The pass rush will make his day difficult at times, but I'm expecting a typical Winston outing where the young starter throws an interception (if not more) and still finds a way to deliver multiple with his arm and/or legs. DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans, and Cameron Brate are all in play. 

Takes on Cooper Kupp

I'm a broken record about Cooper Kupp this year and last week's game isn't helping me take the needle off the turntable. Kupp is one of those must-have free agents if your team suffered an injury and you need help at wide receiver. 

My thoughts on Kupp in this week's Top 10:

 

Goff to Kupp 1

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onSep 10, 2017 at 9:13pm PDT

 

Cooper Kupp's performance from the slot relegates Tavon Austin to an occasional gadget option that Jeff Fisher's regime overplayed to the detriment of the offense. Kupp won the ball in the air, got on top of off-coverage safeties, and flashed his skill after the catch.

He's a priority waiver wire addition this week in PPR leagues with 20-man rosters.    

Sigmund Bloom concurs in this week's Sleepers feature: 

Cooper Kupp (vs WAS) - The chemistry that is the foundation of great quarterback-wide receiver combinations is clearly there with Kupp and Jared Goff. This week, the Rams face a Washington defense that has Josh Norman for blotting out #1 receivers, but allowed Nelson Agholor to get free for a big play last week. Kupp might draw Norman much less often than Sammy Watkins and lead the team in receiving yards again this week.

Our Roundtable was more ambivalent about Kupp: 

Howe: I wasn't a Kupp fan during draft season. He's slow, he's old for a prospect, and he looked to blend in with the Rams' numerous, similar slot-only names. But Kupp has worked his way up the priority chart and looks like a solid (if uninspiring) PPR WR4 going forward. His ceiling isn't anything to gush over, but I'm confident he can catch four passes a week.

Holloway: Cooper Kupp had a nice opening game, but I do not trust Jared Goff to have continued sustained success and Kupp is one of a trio (Sammy Watkins & Robert Woods) who could lead the Rams in receiving from week to week. I am letting Kupp be picked up by others.

Waldman: I would like to point out that speed isn't nearly as important as quickness. Kupp had a slower 40-time, but his 20-Shuttle and 3-Cone drill performances were among the quickest of his class and as good or better than Allen Robinson's times. Technically speaking to the role of the position, wide receivers earn most of their separation within the first 10-15 yards of their routes. Kupp's quickness has shown up over and over and over again at the college level, and not just against small-school opponents. While I disagree with the "not enough targets to go around argument" can understand the lack of confidence in Goff supporting three fantasy receivers when two of them are proven veterans. I disagree because I believe the slot receiver has an important role in this offense and he already knows all three spots, which increases his scheme flexibility. These skills will make Kupp more reliable than most think.  

Tremblay: I'm less certain about Kupp. He's in somewhat of a similar situation to that of Kenny Golladay in that he's ostensibly third in the pecking order among his team's wide receivers. Kupp is behind Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods for now, although he could end up passing Woods. Unlike Golladay's Lions, however, the Rams are unlikely to generate a passing game robust enough to support fantasy relevance for three wide receivers. Kupp could have some big weeks now and then, but when we look back at the season after it's done, Week 1 might end up being one of the better ones.

Wood: Kupp is quite possibly the real deal. The Rams had everything go right against the Colts so it's important we don't overvalue that box score. However, Kupp looked sharp and made plays when Jared Goff threw his way. Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins remain the starters, but Woods isn't special enough to keep Kupp from ascending if he plays as well as he did in Week One. 

Jeff Hasley's Fantasy Overview offers an excellent condensed look at the weekly state of fantasy football with a dose of perspective from previous years at the same point of the season.  Haseley believes in Kupp. 

WR Cooper Kupp, LAR - The Kupp Wagon is boarding. It's clear that Sean McVay wants to keep Kupp involved heavily in the Rams offense. Sammy Watkins will command a lot of attention and if Todd Gurley can keep defenses guessing, Kupp will emerge as one who sees a lot of targets on underneath routes. Kupp can play all over the field in several different formations. He is "football smart" and will do what is needed to give his quarterback a reliable target. This is someone the Rams haven't had in the past - not since the Danny Amendola days. I wish he didn't score in Week 1, because I'd be all over him as an upside play. 

My Take: You know my take. As for how to value him? Try to acquire him at flex-option/bye-week value, but if you have to pay WR3 value for him, I think he'll fulfill it. 

Trendspotting: Atlanta's defense an open gate for Ty Montgomery this week?

Ryan Hester's Trendspotting was one of my favorite Footballguys columns last year. This year, Hester is strong on Montgomery based on a trend of running back production against Atlanta's defense:


TREND/NOT A TREND?

Last year, we noticed some trends and exploited them. But teams make offseason adjustments, bring on new personnel and coaches, and attempt to improve. Let's take a look at some 2016 trends that either continued into 2017 or were flipped around and examine whether we think the 2017 version of each will continue.

TREND: ATLANTA ALLOWING RECEIVING PRODUCTION TO RUNNING BACKS

Notes

  • In 2016, Atlanta allowed 14.5 receiving fantasy points per game to running backsmost in the NFL (12.4% more than the second-worst team).
  • In the Super Bowl, James White scored 34.0 receiving fantasy points.
  • In Week 1, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard continued the trend.
 

Commentary

This would appear to be a real thing. And considering Ty Montgomery and Aaron Rodgers are visiting Atlanta next, it wouldn't stand to reason that one week of adjustments can do more than an entire offseason could.

Targets Lead to Touchdowns

You may recognize this section as a staple from last year's column. This week, we'll do things a little differently, again due to lack of sample. The most targeted players in Week 1 without a score are as follows:

Nowhere near that top five but still notable is Montgomery. Green Bay's converted wide receiver had four targets on Sunday and converted them into four receptions for 39 yards. Montgomery did not score a receiving touchdown. In fact, he has not scored a receiving touchdown since 2015 and only has two total in his career, both as a wide receiver. Why is this notable, you ask? Let's break this down, going back to Week 6 last season, the first game in which Montgomery was extensively used out of the backfield.

  • There are 33 running backs with 3+ targets per game in that span.
  • Montgomery has the most per game without a receiving touchdown.
  • The following backs also have zero receiving touchdowns and rank high in targets per game: Duke Johnson Jr, T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley, and Isaiah Crowell. These backs all have one glaring similarity: they play in bad-to-putrid offenses. Montgomery is the obvious "one of this is not like the other" in this group.
  • Montgomery also ran a high number of routes as a wide receiver in Week 1.

As a side note, Darren Sproles (62 targets since Week 6 of 2016, 1 touchdown) and LeSean McCoy (43 targets, 0 touchdowns) are also regression candidates for tallying a receiving touchdown.

More Montgomery

You may have noticed a theme developing here. This is Ty Montgomery Week. If you read my work this preseason, you know I was high on his prospects. I even identified him as the clear workhorse in Green Bay. Week 1 only made me feel stronger.

More Notes

  • Montgomery has three games where he received greater than 15 touches. In those games, he has averaged 25.1 fantasy points.
  • Montgomery has three games where he received between 10 and 15 touches. In those games, he has averaged 15.3 fantasy points (with one including Minnesota's elite defense).

Montgomery

My Take: As the recapper of Atlanta games, I can tell you that Hester's data research has great contextual fit with what I've observed weekly with Atlanta. The Falcons' linebackers and safeties are a youthful, athletic group who are prone to taking bad angles and missing tackles. They are getting better at closing to the receiver and gang tackling, but they still have a rookie in the lineup (Duke Riley) who missed multiple tackles of Tarik Cohen last week. Start Montgomery this week.  

Exposed: Lions and Titans receivers

Aaron Rudnick's Exposed features favorable and unfavorable matchups for receivers and tight ends. Two that match the film for me are his takes on the Detroit and Jaguars receiving corps: 

WR Marvin Jones Jr, DET (vs NYG)
The Cardinals used Patrick Peterson to shadow Jones last week while Golden Tate tore up Tyrann Mathieu out of the slot. The Giants could do the same with Janoris Jenkins here, which would likely free up rookie Kenny Golladay to face the less threatening Eli Apple.

WR Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews, TEN (vs JAX)
The Jaguars are another team that boasts two great cover corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. That points to a down week for Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews outside and could mean a bump in targets for Eric Decker and Delanie Walker over the middle. 

My Take: I think one of Davis or Matthews will have a good weekend, but it depends on how the Jaguars deploy Ramsey. Will it be a plaster job on one receiver all game or will he play the receiver that aligns to his side? I think Rudnicki is dead-on about Jones this week. I am not starting Jones in my leagues. 

Evalueator: Week 2

I'll end with a fantastic DFS tool that our staffer Austin Lee created last year, called eVALUEator. If you play multiple DFS sites, the Footballguys eVALUEator helps you choose the best sites to start your favorite players. It doesn't project player performance like our Interactive Value Charts. Instead, it identifies outlier price valution across the industry.

High numbers are green and indicate comparatively low salaries. Low numbers are blue and indicate comparatively high salaries. So for a given player, green sites offer more bang for your buck than blue sites. Click the positional text labels below to change the tables of data. Click the top of each column to sort or reverse sort the data.

We can't completely share our algorithm, but it accounts for all the key variables. As a starting point, we adjust for differences in scoring systems, roster sizes, total salary cap, and minimum prices at each position. After futher calculation, cross-site pricing aligns to create the clean comparisons in the tables below. We hope you find this information useful for adjusting player exposure across multiple sites.

For more help using the eVALUEator tool, check out this helpful video tutorial that fellow Footballguy, Phil Alexander, created last season.




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