My team was sitting pretty at 4-1 in one of my home leagues (where bragging rights trump any sort of cash prize). Coming into the season, I was confident running back would be my strength with Matt Forte, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller and Knowshon Moreno. Well, after a hot five weeks, my team spun into a bit of a whirlwind and I lost Moreno and Spiller for the year, and dropped two games in a row to leave me at 4-3.
I was left with a choice, ride my team as is or shake things up. First thing I did was contact an owner with plenty of RBs, but a need at WR and QB. I shipped my Tony Romo (Philip Rivers is my starter) and Roddy White for his Ronnie Hillman and Larry Fitzgerald. I then flipped Fitzgerald (I did not want him anywhere near my roster) and Terrance Williams for Emmanuel Sanders, Keenan Allen and Dwayne Allen (I had been starting waiver wire TE’s, most recently Scott Chandler, after losing Kyle Rudolph). I then picked up Anthony Dixon and Charles Sims to provide more depth.
Within one day my team had completely changed. You may be wondering, why am I telling you about all these moves? Well, besides wanting to see what you think (Tweet me @MichaelFFlorio), I want to show you that even if things are getting rough for your team, you can always shake things up by making some moves. One way to do so is to keep a close eye on the waiver wire for the next breakout, which is where this article comes in.
Here is the latest edition of The Watch List, where the players listed are likely calling the waiver wire home, but scouting them could keep you one step ahead of your league mates and help you grab the next big player before he breaks out.
Charles Sims (Tampa Bay Bucs, Running Back) Doug Martin has rushed for 139 yards on 48 attempts and one touchdown this season. He has yet to rush for more than 45 yards in a game and is averaging 2.9 yards-per-carry. In case you are new to Fantasy Football, that isn’t just bad, it’s awful. Bobby Rainey has done a nice job as the No. 2 RB, but it seems he is destined for nothing more. That’s where Charles Sims comes into play. The third round pick was placed on the IR list following an ankle surgery in the preseason, but he returned to practice this week and is eligible to return to games next week. Sims’ return could mean Martin’s time as the lead back in Tampa is limited, especially since the new regime inherited him and still decided to go out and draft Sims. He will likely be eased into the offense, but expect Sims to play on passing downs, as he has great hands out of the backfield, evident in his 158 career college receptions.
Scout Level: A popular sleeper pick throughout the industry in the preseason, he is worth monitoring in all leagues as he gets closer to returning. Stash him now in deeper formats, as he could be great come Fantasy playoff time.
Anthony Dixon (Buffalo Bills, Running Back) It seems like everyone rushed out to add Bryce Brown and left Dixon, who is only owned in 29 percent of CBS and five percent of NFL.com leagues, out in the cold. The fact of the matter is that Dixon seems to be the player the Bills’ coaches like more. He is the one that has been active all season, while Brown has been a healthy inactive. Prior to Sunday, he wasn’t asked to carry the ball much, and when he did it would be for short yardage. But on Sunday he got to display his talent, rushing for 51-yards on 13 carries and catching three passes for 15 yards. Dixon said he is excited to showcase what he can do because he has never been given this opportunity since coming into the league, and has only been viewed as a hard runner that can pick up the short yards. Brown is the more electric, and likely more talented back, but he has had issues holding onto the ball in the past. Bills Head Coach Doug Marone has also stated that Brown was more a part of the Bills’ future plans. This could shake up to be a RBBC, but either one of the two could emerge as the lead back for the next month, with Dixon more familiar with the team and likely costing a lot less FAAB. This could shake up to be Dixon playing the Fred Jackson role, while Brown is the new Spiller.
Scout Level: Keep a close eye on this situation and feel free to add Dixon now if you have the roster spot. If given lead back duty he could develop into a solid RB2 the next few weeks.
Jonas Gray (New England Patriots, Running Back) The truth of the matter is that no one knows what Bill Belichick is going to do in any given week. But the fact that Gray was activated over James White, and got three touches compared to Brandon Bolden’s one, is worth looking into. It’s also noteworthy that he played 19 percent of the snaps last week, compared to Bolden’s two percent. It is hard to see the Pats using Vereen as a featured back, since he doesn’t profile to be a back that can run between the tackles and pick up the short yardage. That role could be Gray’s and he could emerge to be a poor man’s Steven Ridley.
Scout Level: Scout in 14 team leagues.
Jermaine Kearse (Seattle Seahawks, Wide Receiver) Opportunity. That’s all a player needs to make a name for himself in the NFL, and that’s what Kearse is going to receive. Percy Harvin may not have done much damage with Seattle this year, but he certainly took plenty of targets away from other receivers. To put it in perspective, Doug Baldwin had 11 targets this week, in a game Harvin did not play, and only has ONE more target than Harvin on the season. Kearse had seven targets on Sunday and is still trailing Harvin by eight. Kearse, at 6’1”, could blossom into the Seahawks’ best red zone receiver, and while everyone in your league will be locked in on Baldwin, so will opposing defenses. Kearse is currently in the WR 4/5 range, but has the opportunity to blossom into a WR 3 worth starting given the right matchup.
Scout Level: Scout in 12-team leagues.
Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers, Wide Receiver) So you think Pittsburgh’s receiving corps is a one trick pony? Well… yeah, it is. But someone has to line up opposite Antonio Brown…right? That’s where Bryant comes in. On Monday night, Brown had 13 targets and played 92 percent of the snaps. Le’Veon Bell was second in targets with eight, and then Bryant came in with five. He may have only played 34 percent of the snaps, which is less than Markus Wheaton (48 percent), Lance Moore (35 percent) and just more than Mr. Stone Hands himself, Darrius Heyward-Bey (31 percent). But none of those guys received more than two targets or receptions, and unless Brown is throwing the ball more often, Lance Moore isn’t much of a threat. Moore could be a nice slot receiver, but the outside is Bryant’s for the taking. He has the size and speed to excel in the role, as he should continue to steal more time away from Markus Wheaton.
Scout Level: Scout him in all 12-team leagues or deeper, especially if you are desperate for receivers.
Tavon Austin (St. Louis Rams, Wide Receiver) Despite only playing 45 percent of the snaps, Austin led all Rams WRs in targets and touches. Quick and Britt are cemented on the outside, but Austin will serve as the primary slot receiver for the Rams, as well as being given some carries. With Quick losing targets at a rapid rate, someone will have to step up for the Rams. Austin has been held in check so far this season, but he showed last season that he has the ability to explode in random weeks, which makes him more useful in best ball formats. Austin has the ability to blossom into a poor man’s Percy Harvin, ya know, minus the punching teammates in the face.
Scout Level: Scout in the deepest of formats.
Gavin Escobar (Dallas Cowboys, Tight End) If I told you on Sunday morning that a Cowboys tight end would score two touchdowns against the Giants, you would have started Jason Witten in all formats… and you likely would have lost. Escobar is coming off his best game as a pro, but that doesn’t mean you should run out and add him to your Fantasy squad. Against the Giants, he was targeted three times, hauling them all in, for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Prior to Sunday’s game, Witten had seen five or more targets in every one, but that number dropped to two against the Giants. As for Escobar, Sunday was the first time all season that more than two passes have gone his way. I’m afraid this is worse news for Witten owners than good news for those hoping to strike it big with Escobar. These two could take targets away from one another, making it very difficult to trust either on any given week.
Scout Level: Scout in 14-team leagues or deeper, especially if in need of a TE. He will remain very touchdown dependant, but worth monitoring in those formats.
Who to scout on Thursday night?
Keenan Allen (San Diego Chargers, Wide Receiver) The chances are he is not on the waiver wire in your league, nor would I insult your Fantasy skills and imagine you play in the few four team leagues that he is. However, this is a different kind of scout. Similar to Cordarelle Patterson last week, I think Allen is a good trade target, and this could be the week to add him. Despite having zero touchdowns this season, Allen still has six red zone targets (three catches), second on the Chargers to only Antonio Gates, who has nine red zone targets and seven touchdowns. Allen also is above and beyond the lead in team targets and receptions, but is third in yards. The reason for that is Allen’s yards per reception is down to 10.4, from 14.7 last season. A big part of this is his inability to do much after the catch, as he says teams are playing press coverage against him, but it will be up to the Chargers to figure out a way to get their best play maker the ball in space. Simply put, as a Fantasy owner you want to give your team the best chance to put up points, and the only way players can get points is if they are being targeted, and doing damage with those targets. The doing damage part is where Allen is slacking, but those red zone targets should lead to more touchdowns, and he is just one big game from regaining a lot of value.
Scout Level: With his value at an all-time low now is the time to buy dirt cheap, if it doesn’t pan out then you can just bench him, but buying now and waiting for a big game could allow you to sell him at close to full value.