Josh McCown: They say you’re only as good as your best players, and by that definition McCown has given him the chance to be a Top 15 quarterback. Listen, the Buccaneers aren’t a good football team but they do have some talent at the skill positions, and the crafty veteran seemed focused on getting those players the ball. Vincent Jackson and the emerging Mike Evans were targeted with 91.7 percent of passes that went to receivers, while Bobby Rainey caught four balls and Austin Seferian-Jenkins saw a season-high nine targets. If only we had some proof that McCown would continue to force feed big receivers … ooo wait, we do! Remember last season’s three game stretch in which McCown took over as the Bears starter and promptly threw every pass to either Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall? If not, let me remind you that the tandem combined for 41 catches, 637 yards, and four touchdowns over those three weeks. Now, the Evans/Jackson combination isn’t nearly as lethal, but I also wouldn’t call Washington or Chicago matchups worth fearing. With Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, and Cam Newton on bye over the next two weeks, McCown should be a widely added spot-start and a player worth stashing if he can once again catch Fantasy fire.
Steven Jackson: Remember when Antone Smith was a thing? Well, he has totaled 25 rushing yards on 13 carries since Week 5, and was outgained on the ground by Matt Ryan on Sunday despite having more carries. Devonta Freeman went to Florida State and is just 22 years old; surely he offers more upside than the aging Jackson, right? Well, his 94 total yards over the last month might suggest otherwise, not to mention his zero red zone carries this season. But I thought Jacquizz Rodgers was the steal of the 2011 draft and would be worked into the mix? Well, eight carries in his last six games doesn’t exactly support that. Heck, he has half as many carries over the last five weeks as Stevan Ridley, a running back who shredded his ACL and MCL five weeks ago!
OK, so maybe this is as much hate for the rest of the Atlanta options as it is love for Jackson, but that has value. I’m always trying to tell you that volume is as valuable, if not more so than skill in Fantasy Football, and Jackson is the latest example. Do I think he is a workhorse that can carry a team, Fantasy or reality? No, but he is getting consistent touches and that is simply difficult to find in today’s NFL. Jackson has recorded 18 touches in back-to-back games, more than he totaled in Weeks 6 and 7 combined. His four rushing touchdowns are comforting and should allow him to maintain value down the stretch, as the Dirty Birds face five teams that rank at or below league average in BOTH rushing touchdowns allowed and yards per carry in the final six weeks of the Fantasy season (six of seven if your league extends through Week 17). No flare and limited upside, but you pay for production, and that is what Jackson is giving you.
Arizona Wide Receivers: Losing Carson Palmer is not ideal, but Drew Stanton’s strong arm should be able to salvage (and potentially improve) the value of all three Fantasy relevant receivers in this offense. Larry Fitzgerald has begun to turn things around (21 catches on 26 targets for 342 yards and a touchdown over the last three weeks) and has produced viable Fantasy stat lines with quarterbacks ranging from Kurt Warner to Derek Anderson throughout his career. In fact, he managed a 19-plus point PPR performance with three different quarterbacks in 2012, all of whom (John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Kevin Kolb) were considered a more significant threat to his statistical production than Stanton is. The struggling Michael Floyd (six straight games with fewer than 50 receiving yards after averaging 84 through three weeks) and the dancing John Brown are never going to be considered “safe” plays on a week-to-week basis, but erasing them from your memory isn’t wise either. Both can stretch the field and make one reception that single-handedly makes him a viable Fantasy play, a skill set that is more likely to be utilized by the strong-armed Stanton (no quarterback with a minimum of 25 percent of his team’s pass attempts ranks even close to Stanton’s 24.7 percent of passes thrown over 20 yards this season). His completion percentage on those passes (39.1 percent) leaves a lot to be desired (ranks him 19th in the league), but the increased volume of deep passes gives both Floyd and Brown a mathematically higher probability of returning decent Fantasy value in any given week. The upcoming matchups are difficult, but it only takes one play. So if you’re targeting upside with the understanding that the floor is a low one, don’t shy away from the Cardinals duo.
Ryan Mathews: Don’t let the bye week blind you, he’s not in a good spot to be nearly as productive as you want him to be, but he may net you value in a trade due to his name recognition. Sure, the bye week bought him an extra week to recover from his knee injury, but it is rare that a team gains significant talent during the bye and that’s what it would take on this offensive line to produce a running back that I feel comfortable starting on a weekly basis. I’d be worried even if he was slated to get a full workload, but with his injury-riddled past and two running backs in Branden Oliver and Donald Brown that figure to see at least some action, what is the realistic ceiling on Mathews? My guess is that his name and his 2013 production can net him more value in a trade than he will provide with production down the stretch; so test the waters and see if you can get any sort of value, before it’s too late.
Top 20 Running Backs from Week 11: With the Fantasy Football playoffs approaching, every owner is going to be looking to acquire “hot” players with the hope of them bringing Fantasy greatness at the ideal time. I don’t mind that idea, but Week 11 was full of red herrings when it comes to this practice. All of these backs finished in ESPN’s Top 20 for the week … and aren’t going to make much difference in the latter stages of this season. Maybe you have one of these players and you can parlay the recent success with another owner’s increasing panic level and net yourself a nice WR3 or FLEX play that you can use to win your league.
CJ Anderson – I’ll admit that he has some short-term value with Ronnie Hillman (ankle sprain) expected to miss the next two weeks, but he’s going to be overvalued as the de facto Denver RB. Montee Ball is going to be back and Juwan Thompson is still very much a short yardage threat. Ooo yea, and that Peyton Manning guy is kind of good throwing the ball, so relying on a third productive running back isn’t the percentage play.
Ben Tate – What exactly does he bring to the table the Terrance West or Isaiah Crowell doesn’t? Nothing. He may top this list in perceived value, as he entered the season as the Browns’ starter and plays in a run-heavy offense, but I’d look for more of those 8-12 touch games, and the ceiling simply isn’t high enough to justify hanging onto him for what I’m sure others may be willing to pay.
Joseph Randle – A long touchdown run is nice, further proving that he is an NFL talent, but as long as DeMarco Murray is healthy, Randle isn’t ever in your starting lineup. Use this big game and Murray’s injury history to sell him to the Murray owner.
Andre Williams – The combination of Rashad Jennings nearing his return and the Giants quickly discovering the talent that they have at the wide receiver position don’t play into Williams’ favor. The 2.88 yards per carry over his last five games isn’t exactly a feather in his cap either, as the G-men figure to work Jennings back into his bell cow role sooner rather than later.
Carlos Hyde – He, like Randle, is an NFL talent and will have Fantasy value … eventually. Frank Gore is getting roughly 2.5 carries for every one Hyde gets in victories this season, a workload that I don’t see changing, with Gore benefiting from the rest provided by the midseason bye week. The fact that Hyde went the better part of four quarters without a single carry should tell you all need to know, but the touchdown allowed him to finish with a productive afternoon. There’s an owner in your league willing to bet against Gore, find him/her and make the move.
Benny Cunningham – The St. Louis backfield is one loaded with current mediocrity, but the Rams are pushing Tre Mason to see what they have in him, a trend that won’t reverse as this team has nothing but the future to play for. Cunningham is a nice option as a pass-catching back, but so is Mason (both players have six receptions over the last three games), making even a niche role unlikely. If he were able to carve out a constant workload I’d still worry, as this offensive line is struggling after losing Jake Long and should not be viewed as one that can provide value to multiple backs.
Week 11 NFL Picks
Buffalo @ Miami
Minnesota @ Chicago
Houston @ Cleveland
Seattle @ Kansas City
Atlanta @ Carolina
Cincinnati @ New Orleans
Tampa Bay @ Washington
Denver @ St. Louis
San Francisco @ New York (Giants)
Oakland @ San Diego
Detroit @ Arizona
Philadelphia @ Green Bay
New England @ Indianapolis
Pittsburgh @ Tennessee
Week 11 Mail Bag
@DerekHibler: Just lost Carson Palmer… Pick up Stanton or Tannehill?
Answer: There are parts of each quarterback’s game that I like and can have an impact in the Fantasy game from this point forward, but replacing Palmer requires the safer week-to-week option and that is Tannehill for me. Stanton, as mentioned above, can stretch the field vertically, but I think that’ll have more of a Fantasy impact on his receivers than on him. Will a few big plays be there? Probably, but he needs to prove the ability to sustain drives in order to be a safe option, something we’ve already seen from Tannehill. The Dolphins quarterback is the fourth leading rusher at his position, a nice bonus when you consider that he continues to develop through the air (increasing completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio for the second consecutive season). Even if you have these two are similar talents, the late season schedule lines up a bit nicer for Miami and their passing game. In the final three weeks of the Fantasy season (Weeks 14-16), the Fins get Baltimore, New England, and Minnesota while the Cardinals oppose Kansas City, St. Louis (on short rest), and Seattle. Stanton is the more likely of the two to finish any given week as a Top 10 quarterback, but he is also the more likely to finish outside the Top 20, a chance I’m not willing to take in the late weeks of the Fantasy season.
Week 11 DraftKings Lineup
QB – Drew Brees
RB – Le’Veon Bell
RB – Alfred Morris
WR – Mike Evans
WR – Michael Floyd
WR – Michael Crabtree*
TE – Jimmy Graham
FLEX – Antonio Gates
D/ST – Broncos
*Some people stack players on the same team … I’m stacking by first name this week (had to refrain from Mike Vick though, he’s on a bye) .