Welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where the players listed are lesser known and likely calling the waiver wire home; scouting them going forward will give you an advantage over your league mates.
Jerick McKinnon (Minnesota Vikings, Running Back) – McKinnon may have only had four touches (two carries, two receptions) in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Patriots, but he was on the field a lot more than that. He played 21 snaps compared to starter Matt Asiata’s 45. However, Asiata lived up to his plodder status, rushing for 36 yards on 13 carries. He did break out a nice 25-yard catch and run TD, but if you take that one run away he caught four balls for 23 yards. Asiata will be given the starting job with AP out again (for who knows how long?), but the Vikings offense lacks electricity and McKinnon can provide that. He recorded the second fastest 40-yard dash time of all rookies in 2014, and he has the ability to run hard between the tackles. He could steal the starting job within the next few weeks, leaving Asiata in a more fitting role as the change of pace back.
Dexter McCluster (Tennessee Titans, Running Back) – It seems like McCluster has made a living off of the hype behind his freak athleticism, but never seems to live up to that hype. That could be the case again this year, but McCluster saw the field plenty in Week 2, in fact, he led all Titan RBs in snaps and it wasn’t even close. McCluster was on the field for 33 snaps on offense, compared to only eight for Shonn Greene and four for Bishop Sankey. It’d be nice to see McCluster take advantage of this, as he only received four carries and for the second straight game only caught one ball. McCluster could thrive in this offense given the amount of time he is seeing the field; if he was used in a Danny Woodhead-esq role. It has yet to be seen whether the Titans will be able to give him the ball in space, and until they prove they can he should only be scouted.
Stepfan Taylor (Arizona Cardinals, Running Back) – Things are just getting worse for the NFL as it was announced on Wednesday that Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on domestic violence charges. Dwyer’s absence could open the door for Taylor. Stanford’s all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns has yet to receive much of a workload in the NFL. He had four touches Week 1 (one carry, three catches) for 26 total yards and a receiving touchdown, but he did not touch the ball in Week 2. Dwyer has touched the ball nine times each game, so those touches could go Taylor’s way. He got some snaps in the red zone in Week 1, and those goal line looks could go his way. Taylor would be a low end flex option, but with Ellington already banged up he is certainly worth monitoring.
Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars, Wide Receiver) – Robinson is a deep league scout only, as he will have to earn his time on the field. Robinson was the number four receiver for the Jags in Week 1, both on the depth chart and snaps played, as Allen Hurns, Marquise Lee and Mike Brown all played more. Robinson had one catch for three yards while playing 20 snaps in Week 1. In Week 2, he jumped Brown to play 30 snaps, still behind Hurns and Lee, though, and he was able to demonstrate some of his big play ability. He hauled in four receptions for 75 yards, but one was a 54-yarder that came late in the game with the Jags down big time. Add in the fact that Cecil Shorts could return this week, and it makes it hard to justify owning Robinson in all but the deepest of leagues. However, with Lee, Shorts and Hurns all banged up, he is worth keeping an eye on.
Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers, Wide Receiver) – Coming into this season, everyone, including myself, thought Jarrett Boykin would be the Packers third WR, and while he may be listed as so on the depth chart, the numbers say otherwise. After not being targeted in Week 1 (Richard Sherman guarded him), Boykin received three looks against the Jets. After Boykin had a big drop in the red zone, Adams came on and made the most of it, hauling in five balls for 50 yards and nearly had a touchdown. Adams (36 snaps) even saw the field more than Boykin (34 snaps), and while Boykin has established a connection with Rodgers, Adams is more explosive and can beat defenders in one-on-one coverage opposite Jordy Nelson. This week’s game against the Lions has the potential to be a shootout and could be Adams’ coming out party. Fantasy owners are highly recommended to watch him closely this week.
Levine Toilolo (Atlanta Falcons, Tight End) – A big drop that lead to an interception probably caused Matt Ryan to look away from his big tight end, but that won’t last. Toilolo flashed his potential in Week 1 with three receptions on six targets for only 19 yards and a touchdown. Toilolo will likely never be a big yardage guy, but standing in at 6’8” and 265-pounds, he could develop into a great red zone threat. Toilolo has been on the field 75 percent of the time, meaning that opportunity will be there, and while he hasn’t shown much other than that lone touchdown, it was an impressive grab. Just look how huge he looks next to defenders.
Browns DST – The Browns defense was a big letdown in Week 1 against the Steelers, but surprisingly bounced back nicely against the Saints. The Browns made Brees’ life very difficult, and while they eventually allowed 397 yards and 24 points, they did force a fumble, record an interception for a second straight game and sack Brees twice. Believe it or not, the Saints were more efficient running the ball than passing. But for some reason the Browns insisted on having Joe Haden guard Jimmy Graham in man-to-man coverage. While Haden has the ability to shut down most receivers, Graham’s size proved to be too tall a task, as he had a field day. The Browns have a more favorable schedule upcoming, and if one thing is for certain it’s that Head Coach Mike Pettine’s defense will put pressure on quarterbacks. The Browns could blossom into a nice DST pickup for those that elect to wait and stream.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask on Twitter @MichaelFFlorio.