Injuries, personnel changes, and new opportunities dominated the Week 11 fantasy landscape. Let's focus on the prominent examples of each and examine the potential impact on fantasy owners moving forward:
- The Rams offense sans Robert Woods
- The Tyrod Taylor-Nathan Peterman QB Controversy
- For Real, Fool's Gold: The Young Buck Edition
- Waldman's Thanksgiving Tradition, Football Style
The Rams Offense Sans Robert Woods
- Will we see a significant change in production for Sammy Watkins or Cooper Kupp?
- If neither Watkins nor Kupp's production changes, are you expecting an uptick in production for Todd Gurley or one of the Ram's tight ends?
- Is there anything to see with Tavon Austin, rookie Josh Reynolds, or second-year man Mike Thomas?
- What are your fantasy expectations for Goff during this critical fantasy stretch run?
I shudder to say we'll see a "significant" change in production from either Watkins or Kupp, but I think some improvement is possible, for both. Statistical production is in part a function of snaps and targets, and both receivers should -- by default -- see more action. Will they capitalize on those additional chances? I'm less hopeful. I also think we have to remember the Rams are in dangerous territory.
I see Woods' injury, and the Goff normalization, as being a net negative for the entire offense. I don't foresee peripheral contributors like the tight ends becoming viable. Nor do I see more work for Gurley; he's already a workhorse.
I have a hard time seeing those reserve players vaulting into prominence when I'm not even sure we'll see Kupp or Watkins improve.
As I alluded, Goff concerns me. He's not playing well against better competition, and I don't think he'll be a legitimate QB1 option in most weeks going forward, for DFS purposes. It's hard to see him projecting as a top 5 quarterback on a Points/Dollar basis without a material reduction in his salary.
The Tyrod Taylor-Nathan Peterman QB Controversy
Waldman: Buffalo was 5-4 with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. Taylor had a 63 percent completion rate with only 3 interceptions when head coach Sean McDermott benched him for Nate Peterman.
A fifth-round pick, Peterman transferred to Pittsburgh after losing the starting job at Tennessee to Joshua Dobbs. Peterman threw five interceptions in his debut against the Chargers.
- What are your thoughts about the decision?
- Can the Bills author reliable fantasy production with Peterman under center?
- Who provides Buffalo the best shot at consistent production if Peterman remains the starter? [Editor's Note: Taylor will start this week, but I kept the answers to this question because we may see Peterman again due to injury or a losing streak.]
Wood: The decision was asinine. Even if you believed in McDermott's logic, the league is a results-driven endeavor and the decision couldn't have turned out worse. Peterman had the kind of performance that can derail his career, much less the game.
You have to wonder how many players in the Bills locker room are now casting a sideways glance at McDermott's way. As Matt noted, this was a team solidly in playoff contention, and they essentially handed a game away in a tight playoff race where one or two games will be the difference between a postseason run and an early season end.
Clearly, Peterman cannot get it done. You can forgive a poor start for a rookie quarterback. You cannot forgive five interceptions in one half of football. He simply was not equipped to read NFL defenses and make the requisite throws. I don't see how that could be a fluke. He could improve three-fold and still suck.
Put McCoy in as the Wildcat quarterback and say a lot of prayers to whatever deities you worship.
Parsons: I have been a big Tyrod Taylor fan since he has logged time as an NFL starter. A mobile quarterback who avoids interceptions and has reasonable accuracy keeps NFL teams in games. The 'running Taylor out of town' dialogue of late with Buffalo has made zero sense.
Quarterbacks and coaches are the easiest to say 'replace them, get someone else!' With quarterbacks, finding an option as good as Taylor in the draft or free agency is a tall order. Be careful what you wish for when outright replacing a quarterback.
Kelvin Benjamin is also a question mark with his injury status, but I will fade all non-LeSean McCoy options if Nathan Peterman is the starter. Even McCoy will be downgraded 10% due to the turnover risk/factor, but still an auto-start weekly. I am skeptical of Zay Jones, Charles Clay, and company in the passing game already with Taylor under center and Peterman would take them off the weekly radar completely.
Tietgen: It was a terrible decision. Terrible. Taylor was more than fine. One might think there was something "more" to the decision: perhaps something in Taylor's contract that would cost the Bills more money had he kept as the starter. That's the only thing I can think of that would precipitate such a hasty move.
Peterman is absolutely not ready and I expect McCoy to remain productive in a Peterman scenario, but at a reduced level.
Wimer: I agree with Darin, it was a terrible decision to replace a starting quarterback with a winning record with an unprepared rookie. The fault for this most recent loss lies at the coaches/front office's feet.
Peterman was a disaster and without Taylor, teams will stack the box and dare Peterman to beat them. McCoy may bust a long run here and there, but fantasy production will be very hard to come by if Taylor doesn't return to the starting lineup — a sorry tale for all fantasy owners invested in the Bills' receiving corps.
Long-term, I'm not going to write off Peterman's development. I also look at Buffalo's remaining schedule and shoddy trench play on both sides of the ball and I can see why the staff wanted to give Peterman an opportunity. However, the optics of the decision were horrific.
As Wood mentioned, NFL players are competitive and veterans don't want to play for a coach who is willing to pack-in a winning season before letting it play out with its best options. I'm probably reading into this more than what most will find acceptable, but I have to think that the coaching staff never had Taylor in mind as its long-term starter and didn't expect to field a winning record 10 weeks into the season after all the huge personnel changes it made.
I have to think McDermott doesn't want a mediocre record, a one-and-done playoff appearance, and a low draft position with a quarterback it won't bring back in 2018. It's also why he didn't mold the scheme to Taylor's talent.
However, there's no way the Bills can say to its players and fans, "You know what? We're tearing down to the studs but we can't get rid of Taylor and get the value we'd like for him. We also can't use Peterman right away without alienating the players on this team we want to keep. So, we're going to let it play out and have a 'growing pains' year. We realize we're 5-4, but with our team, it's unrealistic to expect we'll make the playoffs, so let's get Peterman ready."
It was a bad decision and probably most of all from the standpoint of perception to the players and fans.
Tremblay: The Bills have been a mediocre team for a long time. The last time they made the playoffs (and lost in the wildcard round), Bill Clinton was President. Since then, they've mostly won between six and nine games a season — usually not terrible, but never actually good.
Halfway through this season, I know a number of Bills fans who were lamenting another trajectory toward an 8-8 season and were ready to try something anything, to change things up. Apparently, when your team has been mediocre long enough, you kind of forget that there are worse things to be. Going 8-8 is not sexy, but it is vaguely respectable. Sticking with Tyrod Taylor may have felt like settling, but the thing about settling is that at least it avoids disaster.
Nate Peterman's first half against the Chargers was a disaster.
That said, I really don't have much to say about the decision. In hindsight, it obviously didn't work out so well. But I think people, in general, are too quick to criticize NFL coaches from their armchairs. The coaches they are criticizing have more information than fans do — daily practice observations, for example — and more expertise when it comes to analyzing that information and using it to make complex decisions.
Besides, most fans tend to be rather fickle about these things. Before Week 11, many fans wanted a quarterback change because Tyrod Taylor couldn't take them beyond 8-8. Now many are inclined to lambast the coaches for even considering a quarterback change. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.
So my anti-hot take on the issue is: I assume the coaches took a lot of factors into account that I'm not privy to, spent more time and effort evaluating the decision that I have, and took a shot that ended up backfiring. It happens. I'm not really in a fair position to competently second-guess that decision, however.
For Real, Fool's Gold: The Young Buck Edition
Waldman: Pick five players from this list who you feel strongest about as "For Real" or "Fool's Gold".
- WR Dede Westbrook
- WR Corey Coleman
- RB Mike Davis
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones
- TE Adam Shaheen
- RB Samaje Perine
- RB Jamaal Williams
- RB Corey Clement
- RB Austin Ekeler
- WR Bruce Ellington
Adam Shaheen is also the real deal. A competent tight end, he's a young quarterback's best friend. The Bears need playmakers and he's shown that he's ready for the job.
Another real deal is Samaje Perine. Due to Chris Thompson's injury, Perine's NFL opportunity has arrived and he delivered when called upon in Week 11. He'll be valuable for fantasy owners during the final weeks of the season.
Fool's Gold: Ricky Seals-Jones.He has an athletic profile still underwhelming for an NFL tight end and his snap count was ridiculously low considering the production he logged in Week 11. Jermaine Gresham remains the starter and Troy Niklas will be an ancillary option. Seals-Jones will have low odds to continue relevant production.
Real: Adam Shaheen. The small school Day 2 draft pick is a metric marvel and the Chicago passing game is without a go-to option (maybe Dontrelle Inman?). Shaheen, at a minimum, should be a good bet for a touchdown or big play any given week to be on the matchup TE2 with upside radar or better.
Real: Austin Ekeler. Philip Rivers loves his running backs in the passing game. Ekeler is in the poor man's Danny Woodhead mold and Melvin Gordon III is dinged up to promote touches and meaningful snaps for the RB2. Ekeler had a strong athletic profile as a prospect and dominant four-year run of production at Western State, he is not going away as an NFL contributor.
Fool's Gold: Jamaal Williams. I see a low-ceiling talent who relies on great lanes to get to the second level or breaking multiple tackles to log a solid run. Ty Montgomery (when healthy) is my bet in the Packers backfield and my sell recommendation is even stronger in dynasty formats.
Tremblay: Do people think Westbrook is gold in redraft leagues? I'd say he's less fool's gold and more candid aluminum. His problem is that Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns (when healthy) are the clear top two wide receivers on the team, and Marcedes Lewis is the top red zone target.
Westbrook got six targets last week, but that was with Hurns out, and even then he was out-snapped by Keelan Cole (who also got six targets). Hurns may or may not return this week, but he'll almost certainly be back during the fantasy playoffs, which leaves Westbrook jockeying for position with Cole in the WR3-WR4 bracket. On a team with a well below-average passing offense, that's not a recipe for fantasy relevance. (The overturned catch was quite impressive, however.)
Coleman as value. He opened the season as Cleveland's best receiver, and after an eight-game layoff, he racked up double-digit targets in his first game back. He's got the physical talent to be a No. 1 receiver in this league, and even if Josh Gordon returns next week, Coleman's place in the starting lineup is locked in. No offensive player on the Cleveland Browns can be considered a sure thing, but Coleman has the potential to be a worthwhile fantasy starter down the stretch.
Davis probably won't suit up this week as he recovers from a groin injury, but he's worth a roster-stash because until he left last week’s game, he instantly looked like the best running back on the Seahawks' roster. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls both look washed up. J.D. McKissic flashes talent, but he's not an every-down back. Davis could produce some decent games during the fantasy playoffs.
Seals-Jones worth a shot. His five targets on Sunday and his impressive production with them could indicate a permanently expanded role in the offense. As a former wide receiver, he's got the athleticism to make plays in the passing game.
Now he could get a sustained opportunity. There's a significant chance that he'll turn out to have been a one-week wonder, but the more intriguing (if also less probable) possibility — that he's been an overlooked talent who will thrive in his new role — makes him worth picking up if you need tight end help.
Shaheen is developing chemistry with QB Mitchell Trubisky; but in redraft leagues, I'd rather take a shot on Seals-Jones than on Shaheen. The Bears' passing offense is pretty lackluster, and even with Zach Miller lost for the season, Shaheen is still sharing snaps with Dion Sims (out the last two weeks) and Daniel Brown. I don't think there's any way Shaheen will be consistent enough to merit cracking a fantasy starting lineup this season.
It sure would be nice to have Aaron Rodgers under center to make this offense go. Nonetheless, Jamaal Williams is built to be an every-down back, and he's a suitable RB2-flex option as long as Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones are on the shelf. Williams isn't gold, but he's at least solid bronze.
Clement is fool's gold. Blount and Ajayi are both playing ahead of him. Clement has been efficient on his limited touches, but it's not sustainable.
Ekeler is a legitimate handcuff, but his fantasy value depends on an injury to Melvin Gordon III. Ellington will be a passable flex option if Will Fuller V is out again, but other than that, he's not worth rostering.
Waldman: Westbrook is for real, but his situation is bronze, at best (love that reference, Maurile). Westbrook is more talented than Cole and the down-and-distance situations and routes that Bortles targeted Westbrook were more difficult situations than Cole's work.
However, I agree that this team wants to run. Bortles has a strong vertical game somewhere within him — two years ago, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns carpet bombed the league with their prowess in the deep passing game and Bortles was the pilot. I'm not counting on that returning with any reliable volume and efficiency with Lee and a talented pair of rookies like Westbrook and Cole.
Coleman is for real, but barely. His quarterback play is unreliable and he'll be facing top cornerbacks every week, which a year of seasoning will not help if much of that year was spent injured. I will be interested to see if top cornerbacks try to press him because that could be risky with Coleman's quickness and underrated strength.
Davis and Shaheen are for real. I wrote about them this week in The Gut Check and The Top 10. Both players have the athletic prowess of NFL starters and the technical skills and versatility to contribute on a consistent basis. I would add either player at the end of many rosters depending on my needs at either position.
Seals-Jones is also a subject profiled in this week's Gut Check and I think the Cardinals are excited about using him as a big slot and second tight end. Because he has that kind of dual role, I'm not writing him off as purely a second tight end who had a fluke match-up advantage against the Texans. It may turn out that way, but I think Arizona knows that Blaine Gabbert's accuracy is spotty and they would prefer to use a receiver whose size and catch radius can erase the need for pinpoint accuracy on downfield throws.
Perine and Williams are for real as talents, but Perine is for real as a priority starter. I've been sitting on that Perine bandwagon while other folks have been filtering on and off because of typical rookie growing pains and lack of usage to get him into a rhythm. He's not a superstar, but neither was Michael Turner — and I don't know a Turner owner during those productive years that complained about him.
I think the light is coming on for Williams. He has looked more like the quick, agile, and creative runner that was on display at BYU. The biggest issue for Williams will be the quality of the offensive line and quarterback play. At Aaron Jones had Aaron Rodgers for most of his productive time on the field.
Montgomery's rushing efficiency with Rodgers in the lineup was last among league starters before he ceded time to Jones and he's not a good pass protector. On the other hand, I showcased Williams' pass protection assignments from last weekend's game. It's possible that Montgomery loses time to Williams based on the team's desire to keep Hundley as comfortable in the pocket as possible — especially if Williams' work on the ground remains steady, if not explosive against some weaker defensive units ahead.
Clement's red zone role in Philadelphia is for real but unless you're in a deep league that starts 4-5 running backs with PPR scoring, his fantasy value is fool's gold.
Ekeler is for real as a change of pace but the same that applies to Clement applies to the Chargers backup. Ellington runs the kind of routes that are safest for Tom Savage, so I'll take a chance and say for real if you start 3-5 receivers. Otherwise, he's fool's gold in most leagues.
Wood: Westbrook is fool's gold. I do not understand the fantasy community's obsessions with a kid who missed most of the year and plays for one of the least effective passing games in football. The Jaguars cannot win with Blake Bortles throwing the ball a lot. Even if Westbrook gets starters' reps, he won't see enough targets to help fantasy leagues.
Seals-Jones? Hahahahahahaha. If anyone says he's not Fool's Gold, he/she should be kicked off "Analyst Island."
Waldman: I think I can speak for Maurile when I say that "Analyst Island" sounds like a reality show, and the term 'reality show' is insanely ironic. I'll take it as a compliment that I'm leaving the island early then.
Wood: I will agree with everyone that Perine is for real. We were all sure Perine would become Washington's lead back at some point this year, but when he failed to overtake Rob Kelley in the early weeks, we all punted on the rookie. That looks dumb, in retrospect. He needed time to learn NFL blocking techniques but looked dominant last week in his first crack at the feature role. Perine didn't become Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher by accident, the kid can ball out.
Like Wildman said, Clement is for real as a player; fool's gold as a fantasy commodity. The Eagles offense is clicking and it seems no player is without value when given adequate touches. However, Clement is legitimately the third option in a four-running back committee featuring himself, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Kenjon Barner. Clement should command a larger role in 2018 and beyond, assuming Ajayi and Clement become the main tandem and Blount is sent packing.
Ellington is fool's gold. Tom Savage isn't going to lead the Texans to many big fantasy weeks, and Ellington is only on the field because everyone else in the receiving corps got hurt opposite DeAndre Hopkins.
Waldman's Thanksgiving Tradition, Football Style
Waldman: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I make sure I host it at my house every year. The one steadfast tradition we have is sharing something for which we're thankful while we enjoy our meal.
Since you're all family at my table this week, I want you to share which player you're most thankful to have witnessed play football.
Waldman: I could list enough players that the food will get cold at the table. In terms of the present, I feel this way about Russell Wilson. Off the field, he may come off as a little phony and disingenuous during interviews to some, but I don't really care about all of that.
If you're a stodgy old beat writer at heart like Pete Prisco, you factor teams wins into the MVP conversation and criticize a former player and scout like Louis Riddick for touting Wilson as a legitimate candidate. I believe the criteria defining the Most Valuable Player Award should not be as heavily weighted on team success.
After all team success is exactly how it sounds: a group effort. Wilson has repeatedly done more with less than any quarterback in football since he arrived in the NFL.
His ability to buy time and throw the ball accurately from, to borrow John Gruden's phrase, "trick-shot angles" is nothing short of incredible. Even many of his designed rolls to the left that ends with pinpoint lasers 25-50 yards downfield are amazing.
Some criticize him for inviting pressure with his movement, but I haven't seen that nearly as often as people like to bring it up. What I have seen is a player who not only is the best at giving a team the best chance to win in the fourth quarter but one who can overcome his own mistakes.
His second-half performance against the Packers three years ago in the playoffs was a testament to emotional resilience and will. Although they didn't beat Carolina two years ago in the postseason, there wasn't a sane member of the human race who witnessed that game and didn't think that Wilson didn't lose that game, he just ran out of time.
Beats by Dr. Dre missed out big-time with a marketing campaign based on that game. Imagine Newton coming to the gym to train and there's little Russell Wilson standing on his shoulder whispering in his ear as he's warming up for his workout:
"It doesn't matter if I'm down 31-0, I'll never stop coming for you. You better hope you have enough time left to have a say because no lead is safe with me."
And then Newton dons his Beats over his years and turns up the volume and walks towards the equipment in the gym as we see his back and Wilson still on his shoulder talking away...
"This isn't over, Cam. I'm right behind you. Can you feel my breath at your back. I'm about to overtake you."
Yeah, Wilson was a bad play away from consecutive Super Bowl wins. But how many quarterbacks can you say that about? He's a great player.