Welcome to Week 4 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 look at select players who are on the verge of an upgrade or downgrade.
Melvin Gordon III and Danny Woodhead (RB, SD) – Just last week I was mentioning that both of these backs were proving to be solid weekly plays. Unfortunately for them their offensive line has just been decimated. OG D.J. Fluker is playing, but working his way back from injury and then this past weekend OT King Dunlap (concussion), OG Orlando Franklin (right ankle injury) and C Chris Watt (groin) all exited early against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 and did not return to action. We also got word that OG Johnnie Troutman (arm) was placed on IR, ending his season. Essentially, that’s all of them as we await word on how severe each injury is.
Karlos Williams (RB, Buf) – This past week the dynamic rookie rushed 12 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. With LeSean McCoy battling a hamstring injury, Williams assumed the teams lead duties and showed why the Bills were willing to cut Fred Jackson this preseason. Williams is averaging 7.75 yards a carry and will be a solid RB1 this week while McCoy misses another week. Unfortunately for Williams, once healthy, McCoy will retake the lead role, but it wouldn’t shock me if Williams held RB3/flex value all year, especially if he receives the team’s goal line carries. McCoy has also carried the ball more times than any other back in the past five years and tends to dance behind the line, so his playing time is in no way assured. Williams is must start this week against a weak Giants run defense.
Lamar Miller (RB, Mia) - Miller rushed 7 times for 38 yards (5.4 yd ave) in Miami's Week 3 loss to the Bills, while also catching 3 passes on 3 targets for an additional 27 yards. OC Bill Lazor inexplicably has abandoned the run game despite being the team’s foundation last season. For example, after Miller had a solid 8 yard run in the 4th quarter to get the Dolphins to the 2 yard line, Lazor opted to pass four times in a row. This lack of commitment to the run has led to the Dolphins losing and there has been talk of HC Philbin being fired mid-season. If they don’t feed Miller the rock more, that is just what will happen. Unfortunately the Dolphins play a stout Jet’s run defense on the muddy fields of London this week, so best to keep Miller on the bench until we see how things play out. The Dolphins then enter their bye week, so hopefully they can right the ship by Week 6.
Chris Johnson (RB, Ari) - Johnson rushed 22 times for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns and caught 1 pass for an additional 40 yards this past week. Although much of the fantasy world wants David Johnson to become the Cardinals' lead back, Chris Johnson looked like the 2010 version of himself, grinding out the tough yards and hitting the whole with good burst. Maybe Johnson just needed to be motivated and it seems like the whole Cardinal’s team is buying into what HC Bruce Arians is selling. After Sunday's win over the 49ers, Arians said that Andre Ellington (PCL) is expected to return this week but said that Johnson has earned the right to maintain lead duties. In an ideal world, Ellington fits best as a change of pace and gadget player anyway. Rightly so, I remain skeptical that Johnson can keep this up and that Ellington can stay healthy. But ride the train while it’s moving, so keep starting Johnson as your RB2 until further notice.
Carlos Hyde (RB, SF) – Just when we thought Hyde was a weekly no brainer and we were welcoming him into the circle of trust, the 49ers reverted into the team we thought they would be. Many were even fooled into thinking QB Colin Kaepernick was a changed man, oh how foolish they were. The bummer is that Hyde actually looks really good, but his team isn’t very good, and with the imminent return of Reggie Bush, Hyde might also start to lose some third down duties. You need to keep starting him, but Hyde is just a RB2 with upside (and downside) and not the RB1 we thought we were getting after Week One.
Kyle Rudolph (TE, Min) – Rudolph is Rudolph, which means he is droppable if you have a better option and he is nothing more than a touchdown dependent, matchup option. This past week he caught 2-of-5 targets for 14 yards and dropped an easy 24-yard pass in the end zone. He’s not worth starting this week against a dominant Denver Bronco’s defense.
Andre Johnson (WR, Ind) – Johnson is another player that is droppable if you need the bench space. I (like some others) thought he would be reinvigorated playing with the best quarterback of his career, but he just isn’t gaining any separation and didn’t catch his only target this past weekend. Donte Moncrief has emerged as the teams number 2 receiver behind T.Y. Hilton and it is not inconceivable that Phillip Dorsett leapfrogs Johnson as the teams number 3. Savvy owners would roster Dorsett in the event that happens, as the Colts passing game is going to emerge in due time.
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Ten) – Titans HC Ken Whisenhunt said the team will continue to integrate rookie WR Dorial Green-Beckham into the offense and I’m betting he sees significantly more snaps once the teams comes off their bye in Week 5. DGB has now scored touchdowns in back-to-back weeks beating top corner backs Vontae Davis and Joe Haden in the process. He’s tough to rely on just yet, but he’s worth rostering in all leagues for the second half of the season where he could make a Kelvin Benjamin type impact.
Richard Rodgers (TE, GB) - Packers TE Andrew Quarless hurt his knee during the Packers' Week 3 win over the Chiefs and WR Davante Adams left the game early after re-injuring his ankle. As bye weeks start to kick in, Rodgers makes a perfect one-week fill-in. I’m talking to you Gronk owners.
This is where we highlight players that are looking particularly good.
Lance Dunbar (RB, Dal) – With Tony Romo injured, the Cowboys are going to lean heavily on the teams run game and that includes check-down passes to Dunbar. In Week 3 he caught all 10 of his targets for 100 yards. While you don’t want to rely on him in standard leagues, he is a legitimate flex and bye week option in PPR leagues no matter the quarterback.
Latavius Murray (RB, Oak) – While he may not have the upside of the top tier running backs, Murray has emerged as a steady low-end RB1 this season. Through three weeks he has 80% of the Raiders carries, with Matt Forte (67%), Adrian Peterson (65.6%), T.J. Yeldon (64.9%) and Joseph Randle (62.3%) the next closest. Helping Murray even more is the emergence of a legitimate Oakland passing game with the talented rookie Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Derek Carr taking a step forward. Murray is a must start in all formats this week against a weak Chicago defense.
Tyrod Taylor (QB, Buf) – When something is working, it’s working. Per PFF, Taylor has thrown a touchdown pass once every 11.1 pass attempts, which is third in the league behind only Carson Palmer (9.8) and Aaron Rodgers (9.1). In Week 3 he finished 21/29 for 277 yards and 3 TDs and he added 3/12. Taylor also has a very easy schedule over the course of the next four weeks: vs. NYG, @Ten, vs. Cin, @Jac. Unless you have a top tier option, if you got him, use him.
THOUGHTS FROM THE BENCH
Here is where we highlight situations or strategies that are worth monitoring.
2-2-1 Strategy – I mentioned my 2-2-1 Running Back Strategy here last week and for those that read it, you are feeling pretty good about drafting Thomas Rawls to back up Marshawn Lynch. Rawls finished with 16/104 rushing against the Bears, as he established himself as Lynch’s clear handcuff, relegating Fred Jackson to change of pace duties. Despite being an undrafted free agent, Rawls posses lead back traits and shined during OTAs and the pre-season, allowing the Seahawks to part ways with both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. He is a must own for all Lynch owners and would be a RB1 if Lynch sits again this week.
Oakland Tight Ends - Through three weeks, Oakland has allowed 21 receptions for 305 yards and 5 touchdowns to tight ends, placing them as the weeks TE2 (Tyler Eifert), TE1 (Crockett Gillmore) and TE2, respectively each week. The Browns all-world Tight End (I’m kidding), Gary Barnidge just put up 6/105/1 on them, leading DFS teams to easy money. If you haven’t figured it out yet, start any tight end facing the Raiders. This week it’s Martellus Bennett’s turn, and even with shaky quarterback play, he will put up numbers.
Do Not Play List – Here are guys you drafted as your starters that you just can’t play right now unless you have no other options:
- Matthew Stafford (Hold as schedule gets easier, but droppable if you have other great options like Carson Palmer)
- Sam Bradford (He’s either going to play better or they are going to play Sanchez. Make sure to handcuff)
- DeMarco Murray (Wouldn’t be surprised in Ryan Matthews becomes the guy here. He’s a better fit for Chip Kelly’s run scheme)
- Justin Forsett (Don’t drop him, but not a bad idea to trade him. I think better times are coming though)
- Jeremy Hill (I think he eventually re-emerges, but more as a RB2 in standard leagues)
- C.J. Anderson (Almost droppable but Ronnie Hillman has not been much better and HC Kubiak does want him to still be the guy. This whole offense is still struggling.)
- Lamar Miller (Running very well averaging 5.4 yards a carry last week, but they only gave him the ball 7 times and they only gave the other running backs some carries in garbage time, so he is still the man here. Box Scores can be deceiving. If they want to win, they need to give him the ball)
- Todd Gurley and Tre Mason (This offensive line is just not good)
DFS – Plays of the Week
Avoiding some of the obvious choices, here are some DFS players that I like more than usual this week:
Thomas Rawls (if Lynch sits, but you have to wait until Monday night to find out)
Le'Veon Bell (as a contrarian play)
Joseph Randle (I don’t think he is as good as he showed last week, but New Orleans stinks)
Julio Jones (why stop using him now)
Larry Fitzgerald (why stop using him now)
Martellus Bennett (See my note on TEs facing Oakland above)
Song of the Week –This week I present, Eric Prydz, a Swedish born, Los Angels based electronic dance producer and DJ whose essential mix was named Essential Mix of the Year by Pete Tong in 2013. Check out “Generate” below:
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