It’s crazy how much can change in such a short period of time. At this point last week, if you owned Adrian Peterson, the chances are people in your league mocked the fact that you were wasting a valuable roster spot. Oh, just a simple plea agreement and avoided jail time later and now AP is the hottest commodity in all of Fantasy.
Yes, there are still a bunch of hurdles he has to jump before he returns to the field. Will the league choose to further suspend him? Will he get in trouble for failing a drug test? Will the Vikings elect to take him back? If so, will he receive the bulk of carries? Will he be the AP we all know so well? Yeah, that’s a lot of questions around him.
However, if you follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/MichaelFFlorio) you already know my take on this, but let me explain for those who don’t. If you are a team with a shot at the playoffs and you have a roster spot, you add him. Even if the chance is one percent he returns this season, adding a Top-24 RB with a ton of upside is worth the gamble. Also, with the chance that he returns, other league mates will be kicking themselves for not being the first to add him, and they might be willing to pay a pretty penny for him. You likely can trade him right now for a player better than the one you cut to add him. I personally own him in two leagues, and while I have not traded him yet, I have received offers (Carson Palmer and Eric Decker did not tickle my fancy). But, if you receive a good enough offer, let’s say Ronnie Hillman or Mark Ingram, players that owners may be scared with others returning from injury, you take it.
With all this unpredictability in Fantasy Football it could be hard to guess the next potential breakout player, but that’s where I come in. Welcome to the newest edition of The Watch List, where a lot of the players are likely calling the waiver wire home, but could be the next big thing. Scouting these players will help keep you one step ahead of your league mates.
Michael Vick (New York Jets, Quarterback) If I told you in 2011 that one day Vick would be quarterbacking the Jets and Mark Sanchez would be on the Eagles and the more valuable commodity, you may have stopped reading my work a long time ago. But that’s exactly what happened. While it makes me feel dirty saying that Vick is worth scouting, he made the Jets’ offense look somewhat respectable. He may have only thrown for 196 yards and one touchdown, but he was up against the Chiefs, who have the sixth-stingiest defense in Fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. After this week against the Steelers, he gets two of the Top 5 Fantasy defenses against QBs (Bills and Dolphins), so it won’t be getting much easier. However, as Vick continues to get more work in with the first team, he could be a solid QB2, and owners aren’t going to complain if he continues to heavily target Harvin and Decker.
Scout Level: Vick should be scouted for those in deeper formats or two-QB leagues.
Marion Grice (Arizona Cardinals, Running Back) Andre Ellington owners may not like this, but the truth of the matter is that the Cardinals tend not to give him goal line carries. Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor and now Grice have all vultured TD’s away from him. Taylor could be out for another two weeks, which would provide an opportunity for Grice. He only received five carries against the Cowboys, and gained 12 yards, but he was able to punch one in for a TD. Don’t expect much more out of him, but if he continues to receive goal line carries he could work his way into the flex category.
Scout Level: Those in 14-team leagues or deeper that are desperate at RB or Flex should keep an eye on him and how he is used.
Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions, Running Back) If it wasn’t for the return of Reggie Bush, Riddick likely would have been added in a lot more leagues. Riddick played well in the past two games, despite missing one in between against the Saints. In those two games, he has done very little in the run game, but topped 70 receiving yards and caught a TD in each. He is especially valuable in PPR formats, catching five passes and eight passes in those two games respectively. Riddick has thrived in the Reggie Bush role, but Bush is back now. However, the Lions have stated they plan on using both Riddick and Bush moving forward; add in Joique Bell and that is a very crowded back field. If Riddick’s role was cemented in this offense I’d tell you to add him right now. However, while we (and the Lions) still figure out just how much he will be used, keep a close eye on him.
Scout Level: Scout in all formats, especially PPR. If he still manages to haul in five receptions per game he will be a hot commodity on the waiver wire.
Kenny Stills (New Orleans Saints, Wide Receiver) The Saints spread the ball more than most teams in the league. It can be very annoying for Fantasy owners. But, there has been one constant besides Jimmy Graham in the Saints passing attack, and his name is Kenny Stills. Last week against the Panthers, Stills hauled in five receptions for 72 yards to lead all Saints’ WRs. Two weeks ago against the Packers, he only managed four receptions for 57 yards, but both were second among Saints’ WRs, trailing only Cooks, who had a huge game. Three weeks ago against the Lions, he caught five balls for 103 yards and a TD. He was second in yards and receptions among Saints’ WRs behind only Marques Colston. It can be hard to predict which Saints wide out will explode from week to week, but Stills has consistently been one of the top two every week since their bye. Still, Stills (see what I did there?) is only owned in 36 percent of CBS leagues and five percent of NFL.com leagues. Those numbers are too low for a wide out that has consistently put up over eight PPR points the past few weeks, and owners plagued by bye week hell should consider picking him up now.
Scout Level: Scout him in all formats.
Robert Woods has become a solid option in the Bills pass game ever since Kyle Orton took over. Yes, Sammy Watkins will take away a ton of looks, but he also is the main focus of opposing defenses. Once Fred Jackson returns, Woods will be nothing more than an afterthought for defenses, and he has the ability to not only take advantage of the single coverage, but thrive under it. His ceiling is limited by the lack of targets, but he is becoming a solid red zone weapon, hauling in a TD in two of the past three games. Against the Patriots, Orton showed that if Watkins is not open, he will look Woods’ way; he targeted him 10 times in that game. Consistency will continue to be the issue, but he is a solid WR 4/5 and could provide good depth at the WR position, but has been overlooked in the majority of leagues.
Scout Level: Keep an eye on him, mainly his targets, in all leagues going forward.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tight End) Despite coming into the season with a ton of upside, Jenkins has yet to produce much. His high in receptions this season is three, his high in yards is 58 and he has only caught one touchdown. It is true that it usually takes a TE a year or two to adjust to the NFL, but QB play has certainly been a factor. Jenkins has not had that much work with Josh McCown, who has displayed the ability to get his TE the ball. In six of the eight games McCown started with the Bears last season, he targeted tight end Martellus Bennett five or more times in six games. In the six games Jenkins has played this season, he’s only been targeted five or more times twice. It is no guarantee that the switch to McCown helps his value, I mean it is Josh McCown, but it certainly can’t hurt to check Seferian-Jenkins out.
Scout Level: Scout him in deeper formats. He could become a solid bye week replacement or TE2.
Who to scout on Thursday Night?
Taylor Gabriel/Travis Benjamin (Wide Receivers, Cleveland Browns) Andrew Hawkins is a game-time decision this week with a knee/thigh injury. If he sits, that would mean a lot more looks for one or both of these wide outs. Hawkins is a target machine, recording 69 targets already, and he consistently receives around nine per game. He has the 20th most targets in the NFL and it’s no surprise that all the names ahead of him are some of the best options in Fantasy. If he was to sit, someone has to get those looks. Gabriel is the first name that comes to mind, as he has been a bigger part of the offense as of late, with 16 targets in the past three games. Last week, he posted five receptions for 87 yards and a TD, and has shown the ability this season to not only be a solid possession receiver, but to break out for a deep ball. However, Benjamin has yet to receive over four targets in any game this season, but has the ability to stretch the field and create a big play. Owners should definitely scout how these two are used, even if Hawkins plays.
Scout Level: Gabriel should be scouted in all PPR formats, while Benjamin should be scouted in 14-team leagues.