The Xpert Eye is back after a brief little vacation of sorts. Typically, we look at the waiver wire on Mondays, so I hope you’ll excuse me for being absent yesterday. There were a couple of key injuries on Sunday to players who will need replacement on your Fantasy rosters. The replacements for those players are the focus of this early peek at the Week 7 waiver wire.
Derek Carr (Raiders) – Despite having two talented RBs on the roster, the Raiders ground game is a bust, to say the very least. However, rookie QB Derek Carr has been a pleasant surprise. In Week 6, he nearly pulled off an upset of the Chargers, throwing for 282 yards with four TDs and just one interception. He’s turned James Jones into a garbage time stud and now Andre Holmes has emerged as another potential big time target. Carr isn’t trustworthy enough to start in any but the deepest of leagues but you could do much worse for a bye week replacement or second QB in leagues that require two every week. The Raiders will almost always be playing from behind, and with their rush offense ranked dead last it will be Carr that will have to step up his game, and that of his receiving corps, if there is any hope of the team becoming competitive. That alone is worth a flier.
Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) – Alright, yes, Tannehill has appeared here before, more than once to be honest. However, he remains available in quite a few leagues and the rumors about Coach Joe Philbin replacing him with Matt Moore seem to have motivated him. He carved up the hapless Raiders in London, then came home and nearly upset the Packers with a 244 yard passing effort that netted him a pair of TDs. His completion percentage over the past two games is 69 percent, which is a vast improvement over the 56 percent mark of the first three games of the season. Tannehill’s rapport with WR Mike Wallace continues to grow and Jarvis Landry has emerged as an effective option in the slot receiver position. Miami plays the Bears and the Jaguars over the next two weeks, and both teams are among the most generous (in terms of Fantasy points) to quarterbacks in the Fantasy realm. Can you say, sneaky starter?
Ronnie Hillman (Broncos) – Right off the bat, let’s acknowledge the fact that Montee Ball could end up being the Wally Pipp of the 2014 season. Hillman hit the century mark in 24 carries against one of the better run defenses in the NFL and instantly gained credibility as a viable RB2 with RB1 upside. With the 49ers, Chargers and Patriots on the schedule over the next three weeks, Hillman will have his work cut out for him, but given his performance this past week, it’s entirely possible we could be discussing whether or not Ball will get his job back when he finally returns from his injury. Oh, and since we mentioned it – reports surfaced that Ball actually tore muscle away from the bone, and it could be several more weeks before he is back in action. He may not have a job waiting for him, as it is clear that Hillman is a better fit in Peyton Manning’s offense.
James White (Patriots) – The Patriots don’t really have another RB on the roster who can fill Ridley’s role as a between the tackles running back. White (5’10”, 205 lbs.) is more of a scatback type of player, although, he has some wiggle and can fake and juke his way to yardage given some space to work with. He was never a featured back in college but he is a capable pass-catcher with good burst. In other words, he’s very similar to Shane Vereen. It’s never easy to predict how Bill Belichick will deploy his running backs and White still has to earn his way into the RB rotation. But this is the time to stash him, before he has success.
Brandon Bolden (Patriots) – Bolden has been used heavily in seasons past, but this year he’s struggled in limited use, only gaining 1.7 yards per carry in 15 attempts through six games. Bolden isn’t really known for his pass catching, though, he did have 21 receptions for 152 yards in 2013 (7.2 yds/rec). He’s more of a straight ahead runner with good strength, but he’s not adept at breaking tackles and isn’t particularly fast despite have good burst. Basically, he’s a BenJarvus Green-Ellis clone, whose primary value to the Patriots is on special teams. Bolden will probably get the first shot to fill Stevan Ridley’s shoes, though, that’s not written in stone, as Bill Belichick will try James White and could easily go with a rotation of all three backs (Shane Vereen, White, Bolden). Since he is getting that first shot, Ridley owners should consider adding him, at least until this situation becomes clearer.
Antone Smith (Falcons) – Smith has to be one of the strangest anomalies of the 2014 Fantasy season to date. He has all of 23 touches and five touchdowns. His two rushing TDs came on plays of 38 and 48 yards, and his three reception TDs came on plays of 54, 74 and 41 yards. The man is a big play machine, and the Falcons (2-3) need him. There are some tough games ahead for Atlanta, who will face the Ravens and Lions before their bye, then the Buccaneers, Panthers and Browns afterward. Steven Jackson has been OK, but he needs volume to be successful. The pass-first offense seems better suited to Smith’s big play talents and the Falcons seem to recognize this. Stash Smith away and use him as a flex option when you need it because things are only going to continue to get better for him.
Jerick McKinnon (Vikings) – We’ve been telling you all season that McKinnon is the more dynamic running back (between him and Matt Asiata) and now the numbers are beginning to reflect that. In Week 6, McKinnon received 17 touches to Asiata’s three. He’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 6.8 yards per reception but he has yet to find the end zone. The Vikings have nothing to lose since their season is pretty much a goner, and they certainly will want to find out what they’ve got in McKinnon as they prepare to regroup for next season. Asiata is little more than Adrian Peterson’s former understudy, while McKinnon represents the team’s future at the position. As the season rolls on, McKinnon will eventually take over the feature role, if he hasn’t already. There are some juicy matchups ahead with rush-friendly defenses, get McKinnon now and enjoy the points as they roll in.
Brandon LaFell (Patriots) – Don’t look now, but with 34 targets LaFell is suddenly the third most targeted receiver on the Patriots after Julian Edelman (57) and Rob Gronkowski (46). However, only four of those targets have actually come in the red zone and two of his three touchdowns this season have been on plays of 44 yards or more. Scoring looks like it may be limited to the one or two occasions in every game when the Patriots decide to take a shot downfield, so volume is what LaFell will need to be Fantasy-worthy and it looks like he’s going to get that. Gradually, his snap count has been increasing; he played during roughly 55 percent of the offensive snaps over the first three weeks and close to 100 percent over the last three weeks. Clearly, LaFell is gaining favor with Tom Brady and he fills a role that’s been lacking in the Patriots’ offense since the departure of Randy Moss several seasons ago. So there is plenty of potential for Fantasy goodness here. Don’t make the mistake of counting on LaFell as anything more than a flex play in the right matchup, though, because Brady always spreads the ball around (despite what the target numbers might say) and that means the volume might not always be there.
Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) – Just as the Giants were getting on a roll, Victor Cruz goes and gets himself hurt. Oddly enough, Cruz’ targets were trending downward since Beckham’s arrival; now that he’s gone for the season, Beckham will likely take up the slack. Reuben Randle will take some of the action and Preston Parker figures to be the slot receiver going forward, but Beckham has the wheels to be a game changer on the outside and the extra targets he’ll get with Cruz gone could make him a consistent week to week WR2. The difference between a nice Fantasy option and a stud will be TD opportunities, so it will be interesting to see if Beckham gets more targets in the red zone. So far he hasn’t. Then again, Cruz was the only WR seeing red zone targets, so perhaps there’s a chance that Beckham sees them going forward. He is definitely worth stashing to find out.
Jordan Reed (Redskins) – Reed finally returned in Week 6 and immediately became Kirk Cousins’ go-to receiver when he needed a first down. He was also targeted in the end zone at least once, though the pass was off target. The Redskins’ pass attack is firing on all cylinders with Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and now Reed back in the fold. With all the attention that Jackson and Garcon will command, Reed should continue to see regular targets and remain a top TE option. If he was left for dead on your waiver wire, you need to grab him immediately.