Every week I try to find a way to explain just how unpredictable Fantasy Football truly is. Well, this week I was given a first hand reminder myself.
I headed into the Monday Night game down 30 Fantasy points with the Eagles DST and Jeremy Maclin in one league, but was going against Kelvin Benjamin and LeSean McCoy. Naturally, I had already accepted defeat, but hoped for a miracle. A few sacks later, and a Darren Sproles return TD and all of a sudden I had hope. Even after McCoy found the end zone, I found myself up nine points thanks to the Eagles DST. Have you ever had a huge, unpredictable, comeback win? The feeling is amazing, but it was short lived.
Boom. A garbage time TD to Benjamin and all of a sudden my nine-point lead turned into an eight-point hole. A second one to Benjamin was just piling on the pain. I sat there, wishing I had just gotten blown out, sitting at 5-5 and ready to give up on that team this season. Trust me Brock, I know how you felt. Then it hit me, with three weeks left (depending on your league) now is the stretch run. Now is as good as a time as any to make thec moves that could shape your team into a real championship contender. One of the best ways to do so is to find a waiver wire gem. That is where I come in.
Welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where the players here may be calling the waiver wire home, but could be a good game or two away from being the next waiver wire darling. Keeping an eye on these players will help keep you one step ahead of your league mates.
Running Back Committees – The first thing that all Fantasy owners should be keeping an eye on this week is teams that use a multitude of RBs, particularly the Bills, Browns, Saints and Broncos. The Bills may or may not have a fully healthy Fred Jackson back, but it is yet to be determined which RB behind him will get carries between Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon. Dixon received the bulk of carries while Jackson was out, but Brown out-touched him last week, piling up 100 total yards and nearly adding a touchdown. He is the one I prefer to own of the two going forward, as he fills the “C.J. Spiller” roll, the better of the two.
In Cleveland, it appeared that a three-headed monster was forming until Isaiah Crowell (who appeared to be the most talented) fumbled. He may have fumbled his way out of the rotation, leaving it between Ben Tate and Terrance West to battle it out for carries. It appears West will see the bulk of carries, particularly if the Browns are leading, but Tate will be in on passing plays. As for goal line carries, who knows? I am still determining whether they draw straws or take a play out of the Broncos book.
Mark Ingram owners have to have a close eye on the Saints with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson back in the mix. As for Denver, if Ronnie Hillman misses time as it sounds he will, Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson and even Juwuan Thompson will be in the mix. It is likely that Ball receives a chance to win his job back, but Anderson will be chomping at the bit. Still, I think Hillman will be heavily involved once healthy. Knowing which RB is the one to have can help you with pickups and allow you to buy low, which can go a long way.
Ryan Mallett (Houston Texans, Quarterback) It’s been a long road for Mallett since he was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft. The 26-year-old has spent his first three and a half seasons of his NFL career sitting behind Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, the Texans are turning away from the beard and turning to Mallett, whom they think could be the franchise QB of the future. Mallett has a strong arm, which could lead to a very nice connection with DeAndre Hopkins, who excels at getting behind the defense for the long ball. Also, expect him to target Andre Johnson often, as he should be Mallett’s safety blanket. There will be the bumps and bruises that come with a first time QB, and he will struggle to find consistency, but could rejuvenate the Texans offense. However, don’t go too crazy, if healthy, Arian Foster is the heart and soul of this offense.
Scout Level: Should be scouted in 14-team leagues or any 2-QB leagues.
Chris Polk (Philadelphia Eagles, Running Back) Polk has blossomed into the handcuff for McCoy, even with Sproles healthy. He may have been the only Eagles RB without a touchdown against the Panthers, but Sproles did not have a carry besides his eight yard touchdown run. In fact, he only had two touches the entire game, for 21 yards. Polk had five carries for 11 yards. Polk not only out touched Sproles, but he saw more time, playing 13 snaps (21 percent) compared to Sproles’ nine (15 percent). Polk has shown the ability to run hard and pick up short yards, and McCoy owners may want to cover their ears, he could vulture a few TDs down the stretch. If anything was to happen to McCoy, Polk would likely see the bulk of carries, with Sproles staying in a roll similar one that he currently plays.
Scout Level: Scout in 14-team leagues. McCoy owners should handcuff Polk if they have the roster spot.
Latavius Murray (Oakland Raiders, Running Back) Murray has yet to touch the ball more than three times in any game this season. His season high in any game is 12 total yards. Murray has yet to do much in his young NFL career, as he missed his entire rookie campaign being on IR. Yeah, there is not much to get excited about here. But, to the surprise of no one, the Raiders (0-9) are not going to be contending for the playoffs this year. They may have something special with rookie QB Derek Carr, and should see what they have in their 23-year-old running back. While Darren McFadden has played nice, him and MJD are getting closer to 30, and both are injury prone. Murray could be the RB of the future in Oakland, but no one knows. The Raiders may want to see what they have in Murray and elect to increase his touches, and if they do he could work his way into flex category.
Scout Level: This is a speculative scout, worth keeping an eye on in deeper formats.
Preston Parker (New York Giants, Wide Receiver) When Victor Cruz went down it left the Giants WR corps in flux. The belief was that youngsters Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. would step up, and while Beckham is proving to be a special talent, Randle has done nothing but disappoint. Despite seeing nine or more targets in seven straight games, he has only topped 60 receiving yards twice and hauled in one touchdown, during that stretch. His yardage has dropped in three straight games. Parker is coming off his best game of the season, and arguable of his career, which he caught all seven of his targets for 79 yards and a TD. Parker is the Giants’ clear-cut WR3, playing 51 of 68 snaps, only trailing Randle and ODB. If Randle continues to struggle it could lead to more snaps and targets for Parker, as someone has to be a reliable weapon for Eli opposite of ODB.
Scout Level: Scout in 12-team leagues, as one more good game could make him a good depth addition.
Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles, Tight End) I’m sure you have heard that Mark Sanchez likes to target tight ends. While this is true, it appears his tight end of choice is not the one all Fantasy owners were hoping it’d be. That’s right, Celek has stepped up with Sanchez, while Zach Ertz has become nothing more than an afterthought. In their first full game with Sanchez at the helm, Celek was targeted seven times, hauling in five receptions for 116 yards and nearly a TD, while Ertz was targeted just three times, good for one reception and 17 yards. Celek was also on the field more, playing 36 of 62 snaps compared to Ertz’s 30 snaps. Celek is the better blocker of the two and is proving to have a stronger connection with Sanchez. If Sanchez continues to show more trust in his veteran tight end the difference in snap counts could grow.
Scout Level: Should be scouted in all leagues, at a weak tight end position.
Who to scout on Thursday night?
Chris Hogan (Buffalo Bills, Wide Receiver) You may see this name and chuckle, but trust me, he is worth scouting. As a Bills fan (yeah, you can feel bad for me), I can say I have seen a ton of Hogan this season. In the first four games with E.J. Manuel at the helm, Hogan did not even receive a target. However, since Kyle Orton has taken over he’s been getting increasing numbers of targets, six or more in three of the last five games with a season-high seven last week. He won’t light up the box score but he has sure hands, grabbing five receptions in each of the three games he received over six targets, making him a nice PPR play. He also has proven to be a surprisingly reliable red zone target, with two TDs from Orton that easily could be more. (Don’t bring up the fact that he was open in the end zone against the Chiefs…. I know.) The game with the Dolphins this week could be his biggest yet. With Cortland Finnegan out, Brent Grimes is expected to shadow Sammy Watkins. I’m not saying he will remove Watkins from the game like Darrelle Revis did, but it should cause Orton to look more towards Robert Woods and Hogan. If there is any more doubt about Hogan, just know that his two nicknames are Hulk and 7-11, because he’s always open.
Scout Level: Scout him in 12-team PPR leagues, could be a sneaky play this week. Also, check out this catch.