Seems the only two subjects anyone wants to discuss with me involve an engaged 80-year-old lunatic on Death Row and a running back who got dismissed from the lunacy of his former backfield.
One number explains why Ben Tate got his walking papers from the Browns on Tuesday: 1.69. That’s Tate’s yards per carry in his last four games with Cleveland, lowlighted by a two-carry, minus-9 yard effort against his old employers from Houston last Sunday. Free agent pickup be damned, the Browns’ decision to send Tate packing did Fantasy owners a huge favor now that “Three’s A Crowd” is now canceled.
Hello, Isaiah Crowell, so glad to reacquaint ourselves with you again.
Crowell has been the Browns’ best back this season, averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry to go along with three touchdowns, although those three fumbles are kind of a killjoy. Still, the rookie from Alabama State via Georgia — owned in 25 percent of polled leagues — is now the lead horse in an offense that graduates from just above mediocre to potentially sneaky good now that Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron bring a big-play element for Brian Hoyer to exploit opposing defenses with.
Terrance West will remain a factor in the running game, yet just how much will depend on whether Crowell looks like the back he did in Cleveland’s first six games, when he averaged at least 4.9 yards per tote in five contests. Keep in mind that the Browns’ run game has gone deep into the hinterlands since All-Pro center Alex Mack went down with a broken leg in the win over the Steelers on October 12. Each of the then-trio has sputtered in the aftermath of losing the anchor of the line, a trend that may continue even with the changing of the backfield guard.
Both backs have Fantasy value, especially if the Browns can inject some life into the ground game. Cleveland has potentially juicy matchups down the stretch for both Crowell and West, beginning with this week’s game at the Falcons. Games against the weak run defenses of the Colts and Bengals await them in Weeks 14 and 15, and the Panthers and Ravens in Weeks 16 and 17 aren’t as daunting as they originally appear.
Weep not for Tate, who already has drawn the interest of the Colts and could receive a phone call from the Steelers, who jettisoned LeGarrette Blount on Tuesday. Tate could benefit from a change of scenery, so I wouldn’t suggest cutting him off your roster quite yet. If the interest with the Colts is mutual, he stands to get a steady workload, one that could increase if Trent Richardson falters on what could be one of his last chances to prove he can be a trustworthy Fantasy back.
The rest of the waiver wire pickings are kinda slim this week, but fret not: the tree’s always an injury/demotion/lazy player away from being refreshed:
Kenny Stills, WR, Saints: Brandin Cooks’ rookie season is kaput thanks to a thumb injury, which means one less mouth for Drew Brees to feed. The talent for huge production is always there with Stills, but lack of targets had been another issue prior to the last three weeks, where Stills has been targeted 18 times. The Ravens have ranked near the bottom in Fantasy points allowed to wideouts, so Stills could be an interesting WR3/Flex option on Monday night. He’s available in 84 percent of polled leagues, so he’s flying under a lot of radars for now.
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders: Oakland is on its way to becoming the second 0-16 team in NFL history, yet the good news is that the Raiders are beginning to pave the way for their younger players to get touches. Murray ran for 47 yards on just four carries and caught three passes in last week’s loss to the Raiders, and while the Chiefs — who face Oakland this week — are mighty stingy when it comes to giving Fantasy points to running backs, Murray (owned in just two percent of polled leagues), is a heck of a flier in deeper leagues. Keeper/dynasty league owners can rejoice in knowing Murray will get an extensive audition now that the backfield tide has turned on Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Colby Fleener, TE, Colts: He’s more of a one-week filler, but Fleener offers the potential for good numbers against a Jaguars’ defense ranked in the bottom half in allowing Fantasy points to tight ends. Fleener’s 7-144-0 line against the Patriots was due in part to the loss of regular starter Dwayne Allen to an injured ankle, and how well the Pats locked up both T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne. However, Fleener was targeted 11 times in the win over the Giants the week before, plus you have to consider Fleener was once Andrew Luck’s top target when the two played at Stanford. He’s owned in 43 percent of polled leagues, so there’s a chance you may have missed out. If not, he’s a top-end option for this week.
Kenny Britt, WR, Rams: Is he a one-week wonder or did his 4-128-1 line signal a sign that the light finally came on for the still-immensely talented Britt? He’s owned in just 16 percent of polled leagues and probably doesn’t appear to be more than just a Flex option in deeper leagues, but Britt has been targeted at least six times in six of his last eight games. Stability and consistency at quarterback is probably a bigger issue when looking at Britt, yet his upside is pretty intriguing for the rest of the season.
Daniel Herron, RB, Colts: Tate could show up, but for now, Herron is Richardson’s backup. He also represents a low-risk, high-reward scenario in that he could see more touches if Richardson can’t handle the lead role. He’s out there in 98 percent of polled leagues, but is a clip ‘n save kind of player, who may actually be a better fit for the Colts offense than Richardson. His value is higher (for now) in deeper leagues.
Justin Hunter, WR, Titans: He’s currently a lock on the All-Bust team, but the Titans’ remaining schedule is bounding with redemption opportunities for Hunter, who has just one game with more than three catches and just two with more than 60 yards receiving. He gets the Eagles’ secondary — which happens to rank 30th in Fantasy points allowed to wide receivers — this week, and closes out with the Texans, Giants, Jets, Jaguars and Colts. Zack Mettenberger is improving faster than expected, and if Hunter can just get more involved in the offense, he has the game-altering skills to run under the cannon arm from which Mettenberger’s passes originate. It’s not how you start, but how you finish, which is why I think Hunter — owned in 43 percent of polled leagues — can be a stealth pick down the stretch.