Is it seriously Week 13 already? Boy, does time fly. For many of you, this is the final week of the regular season before the playoffs begin! Judging that you clicked on an article about players to watch going forward, I’m going to assume you are still in the playoff hunt (or maybe already clinched and are looking for depth). Well, I’ve got you covered!
But first, I just want to say, I hope you have enjoyed reading this column as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Also, I hope my advice has helped you and maybe helped get you into your current playoff position!
Now, welcome to another edition of The Watch List, where most of these players are likely calling the waiver wire home, but could provide depth heading into the playoffs. Keeping an eye on these players will help keep you one step ahead of your league mates when it matters most!
Ben Tate (Minnesota Vikings, Running Back) – After being signed by the Vikings just days before their game against the Packers, many were bracing for Tate to make his impact felt. Even with Matt Asiata out with a concussion, Tate was active but did not see the field at all. Instead, Joe Banyard backed up Jerick McKinnon. You may be asking yourself, who? Exactly. Banyard played 29 snaps, compared to 39 for McKinnon. He may have only received five carries for 26 yards, but he also received three targets, which led to three catches for 19 yards. This role as a pass catcher out of the backfield is one that Tate could not only fill, but thrive in. Not seeing the field has caused his ownership to drop, but with a week of practice he should play this week. He should not only see the field this week, he should see a decent workload; the Vikings added him for a reason.
Scout Level: Scout him in 12-team leagues.
Handcuffs: Popular handcuffs like Knile Davis and Alfred Blue have long been owned. If you are a Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster owner and did not secure the handcuff early on (like me), you know what it feels like to be burned when your top RB goes down. If you are in the playoffs it is smart to add your stud RB’s backup. First off, bye weeks are over and you likely have a player on your team you can afford to cut for a handcuff. Second, if your top RB goes down you do not want your playoff hopes to come down to whether you have the most FAAB or highest waiver priority, as other owners will look to burn you and add the backup. Some handcuffs worth picking up now: Ka’Deem Carey, Chris Polk, Lance Dunbar, Carlos Hyde, James Starks, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Robert Turbin, and Dri Archer.
Nate Washington (Tennessee Titans, Wide Receiver) Washington made a splash on Monday Night Football last week, when he hauled in an 80-yard bomb TD. The bad news? That was his only catch on the game, and he only saw two targets. However, he built on that this past week against the Eagles, in a game the Titans trailed early and had to throw the ball 39 times. Washington saw six targets from Zach Mettenberger, the most he’s seen since Week 5. He hauled in four of those targets for 63 yards. Take it with a grain of salt, though, as Mettenberger targeted both Delanie Walker and Justin Hunter ten times each. He also looked Kendall Wright’s way six times. There will be plenty of mouths to feed in Tennessee (I know, really?), but if Mettenberger (who may have been separated at birth from White Goodman from Dodgeball) looks Washington’s way six times a game, he could provide solid depth in deeper formats.
Scout Level: Scout in 14-team leagues or deeper.
John Brown (Arizona Cardinals, Wide Receiver) Brown’s stats may not show it, but he has become a big part of the Cardinals’ offense. In fact, Sunday was the ninth straight game in which he saw five or more targets. The only game this year he saw less than five targets was Week 2. He saw nine or more targets in three of his past five games. That’s opportunity. He was able to haul in three balls for 61 yards this past week, and while that won’t blow you away, it should be taken into consideration that he was going against the Seahawks, who allow the least Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Larry Fitzgerald could miss more time and that should only boost Brown’s value, especially this week against the Falcons, who allow the fifth-most points to wide receivers.
Scout Level: Should be scouted in all formats, as his ownership is lower than expected. He could be a sneaky DFS play this week..
Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins, Wide Receiver) Speaking of low ownership, Landry’s is way too low. He is only owned in 50 percent of CBS Sportsline leagues and five percent of NFL.com leagues (do they still pay attention?). While one rookie WR from LSU has taken the world by storm this past week, (I mean Odell Beckham Jr., if you’re wondering) the other continues to go under the radar. This past week, Landry caught seven passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns. The best part was that he had a season-high 11 targets. He led all Dolphins in targets by far, as Brandon Gibson was second with six. Mike Wallace only saw five. Landry has already blossomed into the Dolphins’ number two option, but as he continues to gain trust with Ryan Tannehill, he should see upwards of five targets every game. He could be in store for another big week, as the Jets allow the 12th most Fantasy points to opposing wide outs.
Scout Level: Should be scouted in all formats. If he is available and you need depth at WR, he’s a good add now.
Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati Bengals, Tight End) Gresham continues to be a safety blanket for Andy Dalton. But does that lead to value in Fantasy? The truth is, Gresham remains one of the most touchdown dependent tight ends in football, a problem since he only has two on the year and they occurred in the same game. However, he does see a fair share of targets, as he has seen six in three of his past four games. Despite what appears to be a nice matchup this week against the Bucs, it is deceiving, as they have allowed an average of three points to opposing tight ends over the past month. However, the reason he is worth scouting is because he has a favorable schedule in the Fantasy playoffs. Next week, the first round of playoffs in many leagues, he plays the Steelers, who have allowed the seventh-most Fantasy points to tight ends. After a tough matchup in Week 15 against the Browns, he takes on the Broncos in Week 16 (championship week); they’ve allowed the ninth-most Fantasy points to tight ends. His schedule alone makes him worth monitoring this week.
Scout Level: Scout him in deeper formats.
What to watch on Thanksgiving?
I am going to change things up here a bit. Instead of one specific player to scout, I will point out one specific thing to keep an eye on in each game. First, in the Bears vs. Lions matinee, all eyes should be on Matthew Stafford. Anyone will admit that Stafford has been mighty disappointing this year, including me; I was all in on him prior to the season. So far this year, he has passed for three hundred yards just twice. He has yet to throw more than two touchdowns in a game. Worst of all, he hasn’t thrown a single touchdown in two straight games. Owners can’t be blamed for considering cutting ties with him, but I advise to hold tight. I think this is the week both Stafford and Calvin Johnson break out. He goes against the Bears who allow the fourth-most points to opposing QBs, and the duo has historically played well on Thanksgiving. This is a big week for Stafford and the Lions… There will be plenty to watch in the Cowboys vs. Eagles game. The Eagles’ wideouts will have a tall task this week, as the Cowboys allow the fifth-fewest Fantasy points to wide receivers. It will certainly be fun to watch Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews against this defense. As for matchups, Dez Bryant should have a field day against the Eagles, who allow the second-most Fantasy points to wideouts. That could be good news for Cole Beasley, and this could this be the week we see Terrance Williams again… Lastly, in the Niners vs. Seahawks game there is one obvious thing that everyone should keep a close eye on. The “mediocre” Michael Crabtree against Richard Sherman.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! If you have any questions shoot them to me on Twitter @MichaelFFlorio.