by Matthew Gordan
Andre Holmes is an intriguing name out of Oakland. The undrafted WR, long viewed as a deep sleeper, is now in his 3rd season and has registered 20 targets the past two weeks. While he’s only converted nine of those into receptions, two have gone for touchdowns. Derek Carr will be throwing a bunch this year, and there aren’t too many options wearing the silver and black. Roberts has demonstrated game-breaking ability, and looks to have been given a chance to produce. He might make a sneaky pick-up and spend the rest of the season as a potential WR3. More likely he’ll be a boom-or-bust bye week substitute, but at this stage in the season it’ll be hard to find a player with as much potential to grow into a weekly contributor.
Branden Oliver looks like a true NFL running back, and it will be shocking if he is not given the chance to split carries with Ryan Mathews upon the latter’s return. While this will be a huge boon for the Chargers, it will be to the detriment of fantasy owners of most Chargers. With two solid backs, it is entirely possible San Diego will dial back the passing attack and use more clock. I don’t think Philip Rivers will be all that affected, he’ll still whip the ball around and convert a few touchdowns a game, but his receivers individually will probably see a decrease in targets with the RBs suffering from a lack of volume. Of course, we can’t put the cart before the horse just yet. Let’s first see Mathews return to the field and stay there. Oliver is a great hold for fantasy owners. If he’s still somehow available in your league, please leave and pick him up pronto.
In case anyone forgot, every Bear is worth starting. It’s a great offense to watch with a variety of weapons for Jay Cutler to have fun with. Cutler still shoots himself in the foot too often to be considered an elite QB, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with him being your starting QB. Matt Forte is obviously a stud RB, with Ka’Deem Carey his backup (making him an elite handcuff). Brandon Marshall and Ashlon Jeffery are All-World WRs, capable of going off in tandem every week. Even Martellus Bennett has to be considered a top TE option, although I’m most concerned about him than any other Bear. Bennett has yet to consistently produce over the course of a full season, so I’m not quite ready to anoint him on the same level of his teammates. Until he proves otherwise, definitely continue trotting him out. When the Bears are clicking they are one of the more enjoyable teams to watch.
For the second straight year the Falcons have to be one of the more disappointing teams. Only Julio Jones looks like a must-start to me, with the running backs a mess and the other receivers underwhelming. Matt Ryan will be solid for you, but he doesn’t offer the same potential as say a Cutler or Rivers to pop off and win you a fantasy week. Ryan can certainly contribute to a winning week, but he is not a dynamic option right now. Perhaps this is because of his offensive line, perhaps it’s because of their talent at receiver and tight end, but either way, Ryan is nothing more than a good fantasy back-up.
Foresight is a skill every championship-winning fantasy owner possesses. Having the ability to see potential scenarios to exploit is what often scores you a game-changing talent. An example is Branden Oliver following the major injury to Danny Woodhead, or Andrew Holmes following his ascension up the depth chart coupled with the Raiders’ penchant for falling behind by large margins. A situation that warrants attention is the backfield of the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray is a stud, someone you should definitely be holding and enjoying. Remember, to win big you must use logic. Murray is on an unsustainable work pace of 425 carries, and he does have an injury history. Enter Joseph Randle. Randle is the backup to Murray, not Lance Dunbar, who himself is great in the passing game and would continue in this role should Murray go down or if the Cowboys begin limiting Murray’s touches. Instead, it would be Randle who would see an uptick in chances running behind a truly elite offensive line. So far Randle is averaging almost 6 yards a carry in limited reps. He is the stash play here. Even if Murray stays healthy and plays in a career-high number of games, and hopefully he does, the Cowboys will want to maintain his body and pace, preserving him for the stretch run. Go get Randle before it’s too late.
Two other potential sneaky pick-ups reside in Green Bay. James Starks and Davonte Adams are slowly creeping up the usage ranks, with Starks potentially wresting meaningful RB chances from the underwhelming Eddie Lacy while Adams is racking up snaps and targets (8 yesterday, one more than Randall Cobb). Starks legitimately could become a full partner of Lacy’s in the backfield. Why not? He’s started back there befor, and is clearly running better than Lacy right now. I’d sniff around Lacy owners, see if they’re willing to deal him at a discount. If Starks is a free agent, I’m certainly snapping him up. Same goes for Adams, who will surely not overtake Cobb or Jordy Nelson any time soon, but as a WR3 in the Packers offense can probably contribute as a WR3/4 in fantasy. If he’s available in any keeper or dynasty leagues, go ahead and offer your first born. Adams has scary potential, and that’s before you even factor in the Aaron Rodgers bump.
There was some clarification in a few backfields this Sunday. For the Broncos it was Ronnie Hillman who carried the mail with Juwan Thompson his backup and C.J. Anderson the 3rd string. In Cleveland, Terrance West was a healthy scratch again with Isaiah Crowell running well as the backup to starter Ben Tate. In a couple situations that represent potential volume goldmines for middling talents, the Jaguars handed the keys to Storm Johnson and the Titans to Bishop Sankey. Both players are average at best, and if it weren’t for the possibility of falling backwards into 15-20 touches a game they wouldn’t be mentioned here. Still, it’s never a bad idea to build your RB depth in fantasy. Sankey is probably long gone in most leagues, but Johnson may still be hanging around unclaimed. Remember, volume is your friend. Also a reminder Dexter McCluster is probably a free agent in your league. I’m still surprised at his lack of usage in the Titans offense. He did receive 6 targets in the passing game yesterday, so be aware of him for those in PPR leagues.
Rejoice, Torrey Smith owners! Now sell, sell, sell! For those who didn’t sell Cordarrelle Patterson, sorry! Next chance you get, if there is one, do it. Same goes for C.J. Spiller owners. Knowing when to cut bait can be just as important as foresight in fantasy football.
It’s nice to see Tom Brady on fire, but I’m not rethinking my position of he’s nothing more than a borderline QB1. A healthy Rob Gronkowski definitely does not hurt his chances (Gronk has firmly re-established himself as an elite option), but an inconsistent running game may slowly wear on him. Stevan Ridley looks to be out for an extended period and Shane Vereen has oddly been used sporadically. Look for Brandon Bolden to take over most of Ridley’s reps, with Veren hopefully getting more chances. I’m not expecting much from Bolden, but he very well could put up Ridley-like numbers. He’s had big games before and knows the offense. The same question marks from a few weeks ago still remain though: the offensive line and playmakers at the wideout position. I’m not buying Brandon LaFell and neither should you.