by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
No matter how good the teams, there are always ample lessons learned from any NFL game. While both Peyton Manning (25-35, 286 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) and Philip Rivers (30-41, 252 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) performed about where we would’ve expected, whose performances grabbed our attention? Let’s take a look at five things we learned from last night’s action:
1. Ronnie Hillman deserves to keep the Broncos lead back job and is a must start option
The only possible knock against Hillman last night was his lack of TD, though that’s not to say that there wasn’t an opportunity (Juwan Thompson vulture a pair of scores or having a score taken off the board due to a holding penalty). In fact you could argue that he deserved to score multiple times. It would’ve just been icing on the cake, though, as Hillman finished with 20 carries for 109 yards and 3 receptions for 29 yards.
Over the past three weeks, with Monte Ball out, Hillman has averaged 119 total yards per game. Ball, who was injured in the game vs. Arizona, averaged just 72 yards per game over the first three weeks of the season. He scored 1 TD over that span and also lost a fumble (after losing three last season).
It’s not to say that Ball won’t play a role in the offense, but it’s impossible to imagine him taking back lead back duties. Instead he should fall into a complimentary role, much like he did in 2013 behind Knowshon Moreno (which yielded 559 rushing yards, 145 receiving yards and 4 TD).
As for Hillman, in Moreno’s monster 2013 campaign he was averaging 99.125 total yards per game. That should put what Hillman has been doing of late into perspective. Moreno scored 13 TD last season and, with the way Hillman is going, last night’s 0 TD performance will likely be the aberration and not the rule. Consider Hillman a must use option in all formats moving forward with the potential to become a RB1 the rest of the way.
2. Keenan Allen broke out… Sort of…
Allen finally found the end zone, which was a good thing, and did deliver 9 receptions (on 13 targets). However he still struggled to generate big plays as he delivered just 73 yards (an average of 8.1 yards per reception) and had a long of 19 yards.
In other words, the same concerns we had about Allen coming into the night still remain despite the performance. He still has not had a completion on a pass thrown longer than 20 yards and he’s struggled to deliver big plays on short throws. On his 21 receptions on passes thrown between 1 and 10 yards, he’s averaging 7.6 yards per reception and hasn’t broken one more than 14 yards. In comparison, last season he averaged 11.4 yards per reception on such throws.
Obviously Allen is ownable, but don’t consider him a must start option despite finally finding the end zone. He needs to prove that he can do it continually at this point and is more of a WR3 for the time being (of course, with Top 15 upside if he can find his way).
3. Has the bloom come off the Branden Oliver rose?
He put up a pitiful performance last night, with 36 yards on 13 carries and 27 yards on 7 receptions (8 targets). It’s his second consecutive less than stellar outing, after posting 78 total yards against the Chiefs this past Sunday. Obviously he wasn’t going to be able to keep up his incredible pace over his first two starts (against the Jets and Raiders), and you have to wonder if now is the time to sell Oliver while you can.
The matchups the past two weeks have been difficult and it doesn’t get any easier against the Dolphins next week. That is followed by the team’s bye in Week 10 after which Ryan Mathews will likely return to the field. Oliver could then move to a Danny Woodhead type role, leaving him as more of a FLEX option than anything.
While he’s hardly a must sell, seeing what you can get for Oliver now makes sense.
4. Ladarius Green appears unlikely to hold any fantasy appeal in 2014
There was a lot of hype entering the season, but he simply hasn’t made any type of an impact. Last night he was targeted one time, turning it into 1 reception for 9 yards. On the season he has 12 receptions for 165 yards and 0 TD, while the ageless Antonio Gates continues to dominate (32 receptions for 417 yards and 9 TD).
Maybe the team tries to incorporate Green more as the season progresses, and the upside is certainly there, but does anyone really believe in him right now? Outside of dynasty formats he should be squarely on waiver wires across the board.
5. Wes Welker may never make an impact in 2014
It’s not even the missed time early in the season that’s impacting Welker. Just look at the receiving numbers from last night:
- Emmanuel Sanders – 9 receptions for 120 yards and 3 TD
- Demaryius Thomas – 8 receptions for 105 yards
- Julius Thomas – 2 receptions for 23 yards
- Wes Welker – 2 receptions for 5 yards
He’s clearly the #5 option, behind Ronnie Hillman as well. The other three have traded off who the go to target has been, with Sanders being the TD maker last night (giving him 4 on the season). With the type of talent ahead of him, it’s hard to imagine him being anything more than having a one week blowup, at some time, but hardly a trustworthy option.
At this point it’s safe for fantasy owners to move on.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our Week 8 rankings: