Welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where I tell you players that are likely calling the waiver wire home, but are worth scouting this week and going forward in Fantasy Football. Keeping an eye on these guys could allow you to grab them before they break out, which will keep you a step ahead of your league mates.
One new feature I will be introducing this week, is a scout level, which is pretty much the format I think they should be scouted in, and how close they could be to a breakout.
Austin Davis (St. Louis Rams, Quarterbacks) Davis and the Rams have gone under the radar, likely even in their hometown as the (baseball) Cardinals continue to outshine them, but he has been productive. Davis has thrown for 1,129 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, twice eclipsing the 300-yard mark, in four games so far against the Eagles, Cowboys, Bucs and Vikings. While it looks like he’s had a cakewalk schedule, keep in mind that only one of those four (Eagles) ranks among the Top-10 for Fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. The Vikings and Cowboys are actually among the Top-10 for least Fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. Against that, Davis has developed into a solid QB 2, ranking 18th in four-point passing TD leagues and 20th in six-point passing TD leagues (some leagues may vary).
Scout Level: Should be scouted in all 12-team leagues as a backup QB that could flirt with being a Top-15 QB, and should be owned in all two-QB leagues.
Juwan Thompson/C.J. Anderson (Denver Broncos, Running Back) This whole situation is confusing and up for speculation. It would be irresponsible as a Fantasy owner not to scout this situation closely and be ready to jump on one of these two. Ronnie Hillman is going to be amongst the most added players this week, but these two could provide owners with a much better value. Anderson, the popular preseason pick to be Montee Ball’s handcuff, was a healthy inactive last week, which raises some questions. Expect him to be active this week and emerge as the best rusher between the tackles. Thompson, who scored a touchdown last week, is a wild card, as he is likely to be third on the depth chart. However, he just may be the best pass blocker of the bunch, which is huge in a Peyton Manning-run offense. Chances are you haven’t heard much about him, but that’s ok, just look at that POWER! Either one of these could emerge into a must add, as Hillman has had issues holding onto the ball, especially around the goal line. Expect one of these two to receive the goal line touches. But it must be said that John Fox is not afraid of shuffling his running backs, which could be a nightmare for Fantasy owners.
Scout Level: These two should be scouted very closely, regardless of the size of your league. Any running back receiving the bulk of carries with Manning at the helm has a chance to break out.
Storm Johnson (Jacksonville Jaguars, Running Back) Jags Head Coach Gus Bradley confirmed this week that there is an open competition in the backfield. Toby Gerhart has simply been awful, averaging the second worst yards-per-carry at 2.5. Johnson got his first taste of game action last Sunday and rushed four times for 27 yards, including a 20-yarder, which was the longest run of any Jags running back this season. Johnson also has the benefit of being familiar with Blake Bortles, as both attended Central Florida last season. In fact, Bortles said Johnson was very talented, a good sign for the rookie runner. It may take time for him to steal the starting job, but he should see a larger workload in the coming weeks. There is a possibility of a three-headed backfield with him, Gerhart and Denard Robinson, so be careful.
Scout Level: If you play in a 12-team league you should scout him closely this week. Gerhart owners may want to jump the gun and add him.
Justin Hunter (Tennessee Titans, Wide Receiver) Hunter finally lived up to the potential everyone raved about all offseason, posting 99 yards and a touchdown, his first of the year, on three receptions against the Browns. But before you go all crazy, pick him up and plug him in your lineup, let me put his game in perspective. Take away his 75-yard catch and run for a TD, and he only had two catches for 24 yards, similar to all his other games this season. In fact, his five targets last week, were the LEAST he has received all season. Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker both receive more targets than Hunter regularly, and his big play came behind the arm of Charlie Whitehurst, not Jake Locker. While there is no doubting his potential, it’d be nice to see him string together another solid game, or even a couple more plays.
Scout Level: Should be scouted in all leagues, another big game could make him a waiver wire darling next week. Those in best ball leagues should roster him now.
Kenbrell Thompkins (Oakland Raiders, Wide Receiver) The undrafted free agent looked to be the next Patriots steal after having 32 receptions (69 targets) for 466 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games (eight starts) in 2013. However, after only doing minimal damage and frequently being inactive early on in 2014, the Pats released him, and the athletic wide out found a home where it seems all mediocre wideouts go… Oakland. However, Thompkins has already fallen in good graces with the organization, and more importantly, with rookie quarterback Derek Carr. The job as the WR2 opposite James Jones is his for the taking. Thompkins certainly has the size and athleticism to develop into a Fantasy relevant wide receiver; it will just be a matter of getting comfortable within the system. No offense to the Raiders, but it should be easier than it was in New England.
Scout Level: Worth looking into for those in 14-team or deeper formats.
Tim Wright (New England Patriots, Tight End) The second coming of Aaron Hernandez is here! Well, that’s what many rejoiced when the Pats traded for Wright. However, many folks did the same thing last year, when UDFA Zack Sudfeld came in looking like Tim Tebow with hair and shined at OTA’s. Those folks were then left rather disappointed (I whiffed on him last year too). Wright is better than Sudfeld, simply put, but he is not on Hernandez’s level; not yet at least. Wright received five targets on Sunday night, catching all of them for 85 yards and a touchdown. It is worth noting that the Pats ran the two-tight end offense often against the Bengals, but it would be nice to see it even more often. Week 5 was the first time Wright saw more than one target since getting three in Week 1. In fact in Weeks 2-4 against the Vikings, Raiders, and Chiefs, he only saw a total of one target. Wright played 19 out of 84 offensive snaps on Sunday, and while that’s the second most he’s seen on the field this season, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui played more, with 43 snaps. Still, it is encouraging to see Wright play more, and with more time he could blossom into a high end TE 2.
Scout Level: Those in 12-teamers, particularly if you trusted Dennis Pitta, Kyle Rudolph or Zack Ertz to be your TE this year, should keep a close eye on him.
Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams, Tight End) Everyone has fallen in love with Brian Quick this season, and for good reason. He’s posted 21 receptions for 322 yards and three touchdowns. While Cook has only posted 19 receptions for 221 yards and has yet to find the end zone, I bet these two are closer than you think. Quick has received 31 targets so far, tied for the team lead with… Cook. Oh, and three of those targets have come in the red zone for Quick, while four have come for Cook. Cook, who only has two fewer receptions than Quick, is not a deep ball threat. At 6’5”, 254 pounds he remains one of the team’s best red zone threats and the Rams will continue to look for him. As defenses tend to focus more on Quick, Cook should be able to make the most of these targets.
Scout Level: Those owners keeping an eye on Wright should also pay attention to Cook, although he will never be the sexy play.
Bills DST– The Bills rank eighth in total defense, second against the run (behind only Seattle) and 21st against the pass. For Fantasy purposes, they have allowed the third fewest points to opposing running backs (sorry Ridley and Vereen), and fall in the middle of the pack against QBs, WRs and TEs. In fact, they are a Top-5 Fantasy defense in many leagues (depending on the scoring) and have a great upcoming schedule. This week they host the Pats, who many thought were done before last week. Then the Vikings come to town, and then they get the Jets, who appear to be one of the worst offenses in football.
Scout Level: Any Fantasy league that starts a defense. If you don’t want to risk it against the Pats, scout them and be ready to pounce next week.
Who to scout on Thursday Night Football?
Alfred Blue (Houston Texans, Running Back) Blue missed some practice this week with a knee injury, but so did Arian Foster with his hamstring. The truth is, even though I consider myself the biggest Foster supporter out there, he is not the most durable back in the league. Far from it actually, and with a game on short rest after receiving 25-touches, the Texans would be smart to limit his workload tonight. Blue, who received five touches last week, could see that number double, if not more tonight. As the season goes on the Texans would be smart to get Blue more involved, in an effort to keep Foster on the field. I always say, when Foster plays he is elite, but if he were to miss time, Blue would become an instant RB2.
Scout Level: Keep an eye on him tonight. He could be a sneaky play for those who are desperate at RB or want to save money in DFS. But the disclaimer is if you own Foster, you should own Blue.
If you have any questions, fire away on Twitter @MichaelFFlorio.