by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After another Sunday of NFL football it’s hard not to walk away with more questions than answers. It was yet another tough week, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t able to come able learning some valuable lessons. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned from Week 10:
1. That we wrote Isaiah Crowell off prematurely…
The Detroit Lions have struggled more with running backs who can catch the football, not run it, but Crowell has now posted back-to-back strong games (sandwiching the bye week):
- vs. Minnesota – 11 carries for 64 yards and 1 TD (5.8 YPC)
- at Detroit – 16 carries for 90 yards and 1 TD (5.6 YPC)
Sure we’d love to see a bigger workload, but he continues to get 15+ touches per week and is starting to show off his ability. While the short-term schedule isn’t that attractive, the Chargers, Packers and Ravens are all on the horizon. If you bought low, things are looking up.
2. That JuJu Smith-Schuster has officially emerged, at least somewhat…
There was reasons to be skeptical, especially with Martavis Bryant set to play a role this week. He did, with 5 targets, and Le’Veon Bell continued to be a workhorse (26 carries and 6 targets). That said Smith-Schuster matched Antonio Bryant for a team high 7 targets and was the best receiver on the field turning those chances into 5 receptions, 97 yards and 1 TD. He’s now scored in three straight games and over the past two has totaled 12 receptions and 290 yards.
You can argue that he’s big play dependent, as he’s averaged at least 19.4 yards per reception over the past three weeks (17.7 overall on the season) and that’s going to put some boom or bust in his game and limit his overall appeal. He’s a viable WR3, with even more upside, but don’t make the mistake of pushing him as more than that.
3. That New Orleans is clearly a RB based offense…
Sure Michael Thomas put up 9 receptions for 117 yards, but look at the numbers the running back tandem amassed:
- Mark Ingram – 21 carries for 131 yards and 3 TD
- Alvin Kamara – 12 carries for 106 yards and 1 TD (he added 5 catches for 32 yards)
What does that mean? While they are both viable options each week, the bigger fallout is on the secondary receivers like Willie Sneed, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman and Coby Fleener. None of them are going to be trustworthy options moving forward, and we also have to reassess exactly where Drew Brees fits on the QB spectrum. He’s certainly no longer a locked in Top 5 option, and more is a borderline play each week depending on the matchup.
4. That the Mitch Trubisky/Dontrelle Inman tandem will hold value…
It’s taken time, but Trubisky attempted 35 passes and now has 32+ in back-to-back games. He also posted a career best performance, completing 60% of his attempts for 297 yards and 1 TD. The receiving corps is still questionable, though he showed a strong rapport with Dontrelle Inman turning 8 targets into 6 receptions and 88 yards. Inman should continue to develop and emerge as a viable WR2/3, as he’s shown the potential to produce with the Chargers the problem has been a lack of consistent opportunities. That’s not going to be an issue in Chicago, so look for the duo to continue to produce moving forward.
5. That Ty Montgomery still has potential, if he can stay healthy…
He showed it after Aaron Jones went down with an injury, delivering a 37-yard run and finishing with 6 carries for 54 yards and 1 TD (as well as 2 receptions for 14 yards). The problem is that he reaggravated his rib injury, sending him to the showers and leaving Jamaal Williams to carry the load (20 carries for 67 yards). The question now is what is the health status of both Jones and Montgomery, because when they are both healthy they should handle the bulk of the work. If they both can’t go Williams may have value, but he’ll be more of a short-term plugin FLEX play.
6. That Austin Ekeler’s role could expand… Maybe… And it’ll hamper Melvin Gordon…
It was shaping up to be a breakout game, with 10 carries for 42 yards and 5 receptions for 77 yards and 2 TD. The problem is that he lost a fumble late, and that’s not going to sit well when you are trying to kill the clock. He entered the day averaging 5.5 yards per carry, albeit on 15 carries, and he also has shown an ability to catch the football (14 receptions, 102 yards, 1 TD entering the day).
It’s going to be something to watch carefully, as an increased workload would obviously hurt the potential impact of Melvin Gordon. The “leader” obviously wasn’t so impressive yesterday, with 16 carries for 27 yards, and it’s the third time in the past four games that he’s averaged 3.3 yards per carry or worse. Even in the previous game, when he averaged 9.4 yards per carry, if you take out an 87-yard scamper he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. It’s going to be something to watch, but Gordon could be quickly falling into a timeshare.
7. That Robert Woods is the clear top wide receiver for Jared Goff…
While Sammy Watkins remains the biggest “name”, it’s Woods that is the biggest producer. Just look at the numbers from yesterday:
- Robert Woods – 8 receptions (10 targets), 171 yards, 2 TD
- Cooper Kupp – 6 receptions (7 targets), 47 yards
- Sammy Watkins – 2 receptions (3 targets), 41 yards, 1 TD
It’s Woods’ second straight 2 TD day and he’s suddenly up to 39 receptions, 622 yards and 4 TD over 9 games. Watkins, meanwhile, hasn’t had more than 3 receptions in a game for six straight games and hasn’t been targeted more than 5 times in a game over that stretch. Kupp has the upside, and is the biggest competition for Woods, but as Goff develops it’s Woods that’s the most usable option.
8. That Alfred Morris is the clear back to own in Dallas, for now…
Rod Smith was a hot name heading into the week, but he had just 3 carries for 14 yards behind Morris. It’s not that Morris was a workhorse, though the Cowboys were playing from behind from the second quarter and watched their offensive line struggle (8 sacks allowed). That said when the team was trying to run the football it was Morris, and he delivered solid results:
- Alfred Morris – 11 carries for 53 yards
- Rod Smith – 3 carries for 14 yards
- Darren McFadden – 1 carry for -2 yards
Smith is worth stashing, as Morris is no guarantee to continue producing, but for now he’s nothing more than a deep league option.
9. That Sterling Shepard showed off his potential…
The Giants were playing from behind, something that is likely going to be commonplace over the remainder of the season after the embarrassingly poor performance against the 49ers (a 31-21 loss). Eli Manning threw the ball 37 times, and given the injuries it was Shepard and tight end Evan Engram who absorbed the bulk of the targets:
- Sterling Shepard – 13 targets
- Evan Engram – 9 targets
Shepard turned those chances into 11 receptions and 142 yards. He now has 22 targets over the past two games, and given the alternatives (Roger Lewis, Tavarres King) those aren’t going to disappear any time soon. Shepard could be a borderline WR1, based on the matchup, and is a locked in WR2.
10. That it’s tough to trust any New England Patriot player…
Maybe we should’ve known that already, but even on a day where they racked up 41 points it’s an important note. There are some big names among the receiving options, whether it’s Brandin Cooks or Rob Gronkowski, but look at who the TD went to:
- Rex Burkhead
- Dwayne Allen
- James White
Dion Lewis added one on the ground as well, meaning Gronkowski (4 catches for 74 yards) and Cooks (6 catches for 74 yards) were solid though unspectacular. That’s not to say that they are unusable, it’s just something that you always need to keep in the back of your mind when setting your lineup (more for Cooks than Gronkowski).
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
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