Welcome to Week 3 of The Docket, a weekly column that will highlight rule and policy issues effecting players as well as offer strategy and advice on a select few players that you should be targeting or avoiding.
This is where we will highlight pressing issues that will have a major impact on your season, such as the currently suspended player mentioned below:
Martavis Bryant (WR, Pitt) – I mentioned Bryant and Gates here last week, but once again see if you can possibly pry Bryant away from an owner via trade, this is the last week you will have a chance to do so. He will be an every week WR2 in standard leagues and a high-end WR3 in PPR with weekly WR1 upside. The Stealers have 11 plays for more than 25 yards on the season, which is the highest in the league. They are also giving up a ton of points, which means shoot-outs and that in-turn means a lot of deep bombs to Bryant.
Antonio Gates (TE, SD) – For those in need of tight end help, make sure to grab Gates if he’s sitting on the waiver wire, as he will be well rested and an every week TE1 once he returns Week 5. Is he still an elite option? Probably not, but Phillip Rivers trusts him, especially in the redzone.
This is where we look at select players who are on the verge of an upgrade or downgrade.
Rishard Matthews (WR, Mia) – With all the pre-season hype regarding DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills, Matthews has proven to be QB Ryan Tannehill’s clear number two target behind Jarvis Landry. Matthews finished with 6/115 receiving on 7 targets in Week Two and played on 78% of the teams snaps. For people looking for a steady WR3 PPR option as the bye weeks approach, use Matthews while Parker is still adjusting to life in the NFL.
Damien Williams (RB, Mia) –If you are a Lamar Miller owner, you want to make sure to grab Williams. He’s a big kid, standing 6’0”, 222 pounds and ran a 4.45 forty at the combine with a huge 38” vertical. He has good vision, speed, can catch the ball well and is good in pass protection. While the Miami run game has been held in check so far, it should get going soon (although probably not this week against a tough Buffalo defense). Williams would be plug-and-play if Miller misses time.
DeMarco Murray (RB, Phi) – Murray rushed 13 times for a whopping 2 yards this past week. That is a big step back from an amazing 8 rushes for 9 yards in Week One. Luckily for Murray owners he did have 5 receptions for 53 yards this past week and was able to come up with two touchdowns the previous week. But 21 rushing attempts for 11 yards is not what you expected out of your first or second round draft choice. After watching tape, Murray has actually been running hard, but the offensive line play has been horrendous, especially the guards, and Chip Kelly is forcing Murray to run in a scheme that doesn't fit him very well. I have confidence Chip Kelly will eventually right the ship, but playing against a stout Jets defense this week, Murray is best left on your bench. He is also supposedly dealing with a hamstring injury from practice this week, making your decision even easier.
Michael Crabtree (WR, Oak) – Crabtree had a great pre-season and has proved to be the clear number two passing option in Oakland. He saw 16 targets and finished with a solid 9/111/1 line. What’s more impressive is that Crabtree racked up some solid yards after the catch, something we haven’t seen from him almost ever. We don’t want to go overboard, but he’s looking like a solid WR3 option and has been targeted on 27% of his routes.
C.J. Anderson (RB, Den) – This is a big week for Anderson. He’s either going to re-emerge as a solid weekly option or find himself on the bottom of benches. I’m hopeful that he has a bounce back week after having ten days to get healthy and for the Bronco’s to fix their offensive deficiencies. While Anderson hasn’t looked amazing, the blame is not all his. Denver HC Kubiak has tried to force his offensive system on Peyton Manning and the teams offensive lines is one of the worst in the league. Getting Manning back into the shotgun and playing at a quicker pace should open things up for the whole offense and allow Manning to get Anderson in a position to win. The most troubling aspect is that Ronnie Hillman has looked better than Anderson so far, although they do need Anderson’s toughness on the inside and they would still like him to be their lead back with Hillman the change of pace.
Frank Gore (RB, Ind) - Similar to Anderson, Gore has had two brutal matchups to start the year against the Bills and Jets in addition to having a suspect offensive line. The savy owner should see this as an opporunity to buy low as Gore has actually looked pretty good and doesn't seem to be showing any signs of his age. This offense is going to click soon and when they do, it will be firing on all cylinders. We think that should happen this week with a get well game against the Titans. The Colts then get the Jags next week, so things are looking up for Gore.
Leonard Hankerson (WR, Atl) – I listed him as a sleeper on here last week and he showed why. He caught 6-of-11 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta's win over the Giants. He actually should have had a second touchdown but it was overturned and placed at the one-yard line. While Roddy White is still technically the teams #2 receiver, Hankerson ran 68% of his routes form the slot and should be active every week. He would also be an every week WR2 if either White or Julio Jones missed time with injury, which seems to happen every year.
Travis Benjamin (WR, Clev) – It’s hard to completely dismiss a player that has put on a touchdown scoring spree like Benjamin has so far. This past week he caught 3-of-4 targets for 115 yards and two touchdowns to go along with another touchdown on a punt return. He also caught a 58 yard bomb for a touchdown in Week One. The problem is that Benjamin is a rotational player, in a pedestrian passing offense, where he ran a mere nine routes this past week. He’s a shiny toy that is enticing, but savvy fantasy owners won’t take the bait.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Hou) - After a monster Week One, Hopkins had 5 catches on 11 targets for just 53 yards doing battle with Carolina shutdown corner back Josh Norman last week. I love his talent, but the problem with Hopkins going forward is that his quarterback play has been abysmal and he is facing a slew of top CBs this season, something he has rarely done in his career. Over the next three weeks he faces Alterraun Verner (TB), Desmond Trufant (Atl) and Vontae Davis (Ind). There is not way you can sit him, but brace yourself for a bumpy ride if you are counting on him as your WR1.
This is where we highlight players that are looking particularly good.
Cam Newton (QB, Car) – After pre-season worries that Newton would flounder without a proper receiving core, he has alleviated those fears by getting things done with his legs. Cam is on pace for nearly 200 carries this season, that’s almost starting running back numbers right there. This past week he went threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 76 yards and another touchdown on 10 carries as the teams leading rusher. Fire up Cam again this week against a weak Saints defense.
Dion Lewis (RB, NE) -- If you picked up Lewis on the waiver wire last week, you are looking good, particularly in PPR leagues where he should have RB2 value every week. Per PFF, Lewis has forced a NFL-best 16 missed tackles and his Elusive Rating is 90 points better than the 3rd place running back. Righ now in standard leagues he is more of a low-end RB2 or Flex play, especially against more inferior teams such as the Jaguars, but Lewis provides the Patriots with an offensive element that Blount simply can’t match.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR, Ari) -- Fitzgerald went 8-for-9 with 12 yards and 3 touchdowns in Arizona's Week 2 win over the Bears. He remains a must start as a WR2 as long as Carson Palmer stays healthy. While John Brown is the more exciting player, Fitzgerald is still the teams #1 wide receiver.
Steve Johnson (WR, SD) - Johnson went 5/45/1 against a tough Bengals defense last week after putting up 6/82/1 in Week One. Johnson drew rave reviews from the Charger beat writers all pre-season and he looks to be rejuvenated playing with the best quarterback of his career. He’s going to continue to be a good DFS play while his price is cheap and will be an every week WR3 in PPR leagues with upside for more. Remember, Eddie Royal averaged 7.5 TDs playing with Rivers the past two seasons, there is no reason Johnson shouldn’t eclipse that this year
Giovani Bernard (RB, Cin) – Welcome back Mr. Gio Bernard. This past week he rushed 20 times for 123 yards and caught 3 passes for an additional 16 yards. With Jeremy Hill catching a case of the fumbles, Bernard abused the Chargers' defense repeatedly and had 11 runs of 5 or more yards. Hill will reclaim his starting job this week and isn't going anywhere, but his value has certainly taken a hit. Even beyond the fumbles, which historically have not been an issue for Hill, the Bengals seem to be playing a more attacking style of offense with Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones Jr now back healthy. When they go on the attack, Bernard seems like the better fit. Depending on matchup, Bernard is back in the weekly PPR RB2 conversation.
Melvin Gordon III and Danny Woodhead (RB, SD) – Both of these backs are proving to be solid weekly plays. Through two games Woodhead has 7 red-zone carries and 2 redzone targets compared to Melvin Gordon III’s zero. However, per Rich Hribar, Gordon had runs of 27, 26 and 20 yards while Woodhead hasn't had a 20 yard run on his past 293 carries. Fire up Woodhead as a weekly RB2 in PPR leagues and Gordon as a RB2 in standard leagues.
Matt Jones (RB, Wash) – We warned you that Jones would be the staring running back in Washington by the end of the season and that appears to be happening early. While Jones and Alfred Morris limit each other’s upside at the moment, both need to be owned in all formats. Jones rushed for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 3 catches for 23 yards through the air. With limitations at the quarterback position and a better than advertised defense, the run game is going to be the foundation of this offense. Expect an even time-share between Jones and Morris going forward with an eventual shift in Jones’ favor.
THOUGHTS FROM THE BENCH
Here is where we highlight situations or strategies that are worth monitoring.
2-2-1 Strategy - I unveiled my 2-2-1 Running Back Strategy this pre-season. The strategy is simple in execution although slightly more nuanced in theory: draft two (2) running backs, from two (2) different teams, plus one (1) more bye week/flex running back as a utility back for your team. So instead of drafting five, six or seven random backs, lock down two backfields and one more running back. But it has to be the right backfields and right running back. What you are looking for in the 2 back slots, are running backs that are heavily involved in the offense on a week-to-week basis, and then in the event of injury, a clear handcuff that can take over without diminishing the position’s value for you.
This weekend we saw why a strategy like this is so crucial. If you drafted Le'Veon Bell and spent a late round pick on DeAngelo Williams, you wouldn’t have skipped a beat. And if Eddie Lacy misses this week, James Starks will fill in without any decrease to your rung back position. Lamar Miller out? No worry, Damien Williams is ready to rock. You can read more about the strategy here.
DFS – Plays of the Week
Song of the Week –This week I present, Wolf Alice, a great alternative band out of the UK. Check out “Moaning Lisa Smile” below:
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