An Early Look At The Week 8 Waiver Wire: RBs, WRs And TEs
Believe it or not, the halfway mark of the Fantasy Football season is upon us. Most leagues begin their playoffs with Week 14 and wrap up with the Championship game in Week 16. If you’ve been doing well to date, then it’s time to start thinking ahead to those playoff games and the Championship week. You need to unload the dead weight from your roster and stock up on players who may have upside during the playoffs or in Week 16. If your team has not done well to this point, it’s desperation time. You need to hit the waiver wire hard, and/or make some trades to salvage any possible shot at making the playoffs. Even Fantasy Football teams that are (gulp!) 1-6 or 2-5 still have an outside shot at a playoff berth if you can run the table the rest of the way. It won’t be easy but it’s not impossible. If you’re winless at this point in the season, it’s never too early to begin preparation for Fantasy Baseball.
Tre Mason (RB, St. Louis) – Zac Stacy can officially be thrown on the Fantasy trash heap, as Mason is clearly going to be the featured back for the Rams going forward. Mason performed like a seasoned pro against the Seahawks in Seattle, piling up 85 rushing yards and scoring his first professional TD. For those unfamiliar with Mason, he had 1, 816 yards and 23 rushing TDs for Auburn as a junior in 2013. He only caught 12 passes for 163 yards and a TD in that magical season, and he wasn’t targeted in the passing game against Seattle, so Benny Cunningham will likely continue to handle that aspect of the Rams’ offense. Still, with Zac Stacy only getting one snap (and zero touches), Mason becomes the RB to own from the Rams. Go ahead and bid a stack of FAAB cash, as Mason could put up impressive RB1 like numbers over the remainder of the season.
Jonas Gray (RB, New England) – Surprise, surprise! The Patriots zigged and used Gray as the alternate RB to spell Shane Vereen, while the rest of the Fantasy world zagged and bid heavily for special teams operative Brandon Bolden. (I told you not to do it!) Unfortunately, Gray got all of three carries for 12 yards, but it should be noted that the Patriots only ran 15 rushing plays in the game (29 percent of the offense). There is no question that Vereen will be the featured back, and there is no way the Patriots will go the rest of the season with such an unbalanced offensive game plan in every game. Still, there is no guarantee that Gray will be the change of pace back; Bill Belichick could still opt to involve rookie James White in some capacity and Brandon Bolden could also be mixed in occasionally. The bottom line here is that nobody, aside from Vereen, is trustworthy for Fantasy use. So don’t bother wasting your time or FAAB money on any of the Patriots RBs.
Bryce Brown (RB, Buffalo) – The Bills saw lightning strike twice Sunday, as Fred Jackson went down with a groin injury that could sideline him for several weeks and C.J. Spiller broke his collar bone, a displaced fracture that will require surgery and could end his season. Brown has been a healthy scratch all season, but you may remember him as the Eagles backup RB, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry over two seasons before he was signed by Buffalo. It’s not clear how much work Brown will get, as Anthony Dixon will probably be the starter, but the Bills will likely go with some sort of a split similar to the way Jackson and Spiller were utilized. If it’s exactly like the Spiller/Jackson split, this could divide the work in such a way that both backs remain worthless. Brown is more of a pass-catcher than Dixon, so he could play the Jackson role going forward, and if he’s anywhere as good as Jackson has been he could be the more valuable of the two. However, until we know for certain, both backs are worth owning in deep leagues (14-plus teams). If you’re in a 12-team league or an owner of Spiller or Jackson, Dixon is the better option, given that he’s been active all season and got the call after the Bills’ starting duo went down.
Anthony Dixon (RB, Buffalo) – Dixon carried the rock 13 times for 54 yards and caught three passes for 15 yards after taking over for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who were both lost to injury. Dixon was Frank Gore’s understudy for the 49ers for five seasons and came to the Bills as a free agent after it became apparent that San Francisco would never give him the starting job. In all his time there he never had more than 14 carries in a game and he caught a total of nine passes in five seasons. His experience and size make him well suited to the featured back role he will likely fill now and he is the running back to own in 12-team and smaller leagues. However, there is a good chance he’ll be forced into a timeshare with Bryce Brown, which could potentially diminish both backs’ Fantasy value if it’s a 50/50 split similar to the way Jackson and Spiller were deployed. So don’t empty the war chest on Dixon unless you’re a desperate Spiller owner or in dire need of any running back you can get. You’re much better off investing in Tre Mason, Jerick McKinnon or even Denard Robinson.
Jerick McKinnon (RB, Minnesota) – If there were still doubts in your mind about who the primary back is for Vikings after last week, McKinnon’s Week 7 performance against one of the best run defenses in the NFL should erase them. McKinnon ran for 103 yards on 19 carries, including a 29 yard gallop on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage to start the second half. He also caught a pair of passes for negative yardage and out-touched Matt Asiata 21-7. The Vikings’ schedule includes several juicy matchups over the next several weeks, making McKinnon a potentially valuable commodity to own. He’s worth trading for if you’re in dire straits RB-wise, so don’t overlook him if there is an owner in your league willing to move him in a deal.
Denard Robinson (RB, Jacksonville) – The Jaguars’ RB situation was just as muddled as the Vikings, as Robinson had Storm Johnson breathing down his neck for at least a timeshare heading into Week 7. Well, all Robinson did was rattle off 22 carries for 127 yards and a TD to embarrass the Cleveland Browns and help the Jags to their first win of the season. Johnson also got six carries for 16 yards and a score but there is little doubt about which of the two will be the featured back now. Neither of them was targeted in the passing game, so it’s all about toting the rock, and Robinson instantly becomes the second best waiver wire RB of the week behind Tre Mason. Jacksonville’s offense is loaded with troubles, especially on the offensive line, but Robinson should still be able to generate enough Fantasy points to be a viable flex option, especially with matchups on the horizon against the Colts and Giants, and a great matchup against the Titans during Fantasy Championship Week 16.
Allen Robinson (WR, Jacksonville) – Blake Bortles isn’t anyone’s idea of a great QB, at least not yet. But he will remain Jacksonville’s starter for the season and Robinson is one of his favorite targets (Cecil Shorts and safety blanket Clay Harbor being the others). Robinson caught four passes for 60 yards, including a 31 yard TD pass near the end of the first half that left the Browns gasping in its wake. Robinson has 53 targets for the season and has averaged nine targets per game over the last three weeks, leaving little doubt about his status as the alpha dog (cat?) for the Jaguars. He’s a bona fide WR3 with WR2 upside and several good matchups on the schedule, making him a worthy trade target or free agent acquisition if he’s sitting on your waiver wire.
Jermaine Kearse (WR, Seattle) – Kearse was mired buried behind Percy Harvin on the Seahawks’ depth chart and good for only 12 targets over the team’s first four games this season. Now Harvin is gone and Kearse has gotten 14 targets in the last two games, which suddenly makes him a WR you should pay close attention to. Week 7 was his coming out party; he caught three passes on seven targets for 50 yards, including two key third down catches. He’s got the size and strength to be a solid red zone target for Russell Wilson and it would be a big surprise if he didn’t suddenly become an important part of a revitalized offensive plan. Kearse is a WR3 with the potential for much more. The Seahawks schedule is littered with great passing matchups, making Kearse a good trade target for playoff bound Fantasy teams.
Doug Baldwin (WR, Seattle) – Baldwin’s value also saw an uptick with the Harvin trade; he is the clear number one receiver now for the Seahawks. He was targeted a season-high 11 times on Sunday, and he caught seven passes for 123 yards and score, averaging 17.3 yards per catch. Baldwin will remain the top receiver for the team and his value has never been higher. If perchance he went undrafted in your league and remains on the waiver wire, get him now before it’s too late. He is also a great trade target if you are playoff bound in your league. With upcoming games against the Raiders, Giants, Chiefs, Cardinals (twice) and Eagles, there are plenty of juicy matchups in which Baldwin should generate decent Fantasy point totals.
Kenny Stills (WR, New Orleans) – Stills was targeted five times on Sunday and caught all five of them for four first downs and a touchdown. That kind of reliability gets the attention of your QB and Drew Brees is undoubtedly pleased with Stills’ performance. Of course, up until now, Fantasy owners haven’t been too pleased with Stills, as the young WR simply hasn’t produced with 15 receptions for 244 yards. That should change after his Week 7 performance, so now is the time to stash him if he’s available. It’s difficult to say whether or not he will be a reliable Fantasy asset simply because there are so many targets available to Brees, but he’s worth adding on speculation that he becomes a go-to receiver in high- leverage situations, as the team needs a second option after Jimmy Graham.
Gavin Escobar (TE, Dallas) – Escobar was targeted three times in Sunday’s game and caught two TD passes. For the season, Escobar has nine targets, seven receptions for 85 yards and three TDs. Meanwhile, Jason Witten is practically a forgotten man. Unfortunately, without scoring a touchdown, Escobar won’t generate enough Fantasy points to be worthy of a roster spot. Don’t waste your time, FAAB money or roster space on players like Escobar that are TD dependent; it’s just not worth it.
Lance Kendricks (TE, St. Louis) – While Gavin Escobar renders Jason Witten useless, Kendricks does the same to Jared Cook. In fact, the stats are eerily similar. Kendricks has 20 targets, 15 receptions for 127 yards and three TDs. The only difference here is that the Rams seem to be losing confidence in Cook, who drops a lot of passes, which make Kendricks look more like the future TE to own on St. Louis. However, as long as Cook sticks around and takes most of the work between the twenties, Kendricks will be TD-reliant to generate Fantasy points and useless for Fantasy play.
Jermaine Gresham (TE, Cincinnati) – Over the last couple of weeks, Gresham has seen increased use while filling in for Tyler Eifert. Unfortunately, nearly all of the targets are in low-leverage situations and almost none of them are anywhere near the red zone. Whether it’s because there are so many other worthy targets or there is a lack of faith in Gresham, he’s just not getting scoring opportunities despite his 6’5” height and the lack of any other reliable TE on the roster. Granted, Gresham has a long history of dropping passes at prodigious rates, so the lack of faith isn’t unwarranted. Eifert should be back soon, so I wouldn’t bother with Gresham, who will slide back into obscurity once the young TE stud returns.
Cooper Helfet (TE, Seattle) – Helfet caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown against the Rams on Sunday. He was targeted six times in the game, which are more targets than he saw all season. The rookie was pressed into action because both Zach Miller and Luke Willson were unavailable. As such, you can ignore Helfet, who isn’t likely to Wally Pipp either of those players.
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