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Thread: Fantasy Football News, Info, Articles 2017/18 (Lots of ESPN Insider)

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  1. #26  
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    Value fantasy running backs with high floors and high ceilings in 2017
    KC Joyner
    ESPN INSIDER
    8/24/17

    Fantasy football owners are always looking to manage risk. This is the mindset that drives owners to select handcuff running backs, shun players with significant injury histories and rarely pay top draft dollar for rookies.

    Those tactics are all useful, but one of the most beneficial fantasy risk-management techniques is finding players who fall into the rare high-floor/high-ceiling category.
    These players are extremely likely to return enough point production value to justify their average draft position (ADP), yet have the kind of upside potential that could move them up a tier or higher at their position (i.e. a low-tier RB3 who can provide RB2 value, in an upside scenario).

    I've covered some of these high-floor/high-ceiling prospects at wide receiver with Brandin Cooks and a couple of times at quarterback -- one residing in Tampa and a veteran coming off an injury in Carolina -- so it's time to look at the running backs who qualify for this very important category.

    Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

    Cook was a collegiate phenom, as he is the only ACC player to ever rush for 4,000 yards in three seasons and had the most career all-purpose yards by an ACC player who didn't have any return yardage.

    That game-breaking ability has piqued fantasy owners' interest, but what should get their full attention is Cook's pass-blocking history. Nothing will get a rookie running back pulled from the lineup faster than subpar pass protection, but Cook logged a vast amount of experience in this area in Florida State's pro-style offense.

    According to Stats LLC, Cook tallied 820 career snaps on passing plays, yet he had only 104 targets on those plays and thus was in pass protection mode much of the time. This is a major part of why Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur recently said he "absolutely" trusts Cook in pass protection. This confidence should open the door for Cook to sprint past the oft-injured Latavius Murray to take over either as the lead back in a committee setup or even vault close to true bell cow status. Either of those workload volumes would return Cook's current low-tier RB2 ADP (47.2, as of this writing), but the latter could give Cook low-tier RB1 upside that would make him a fantastic selection late in the fifth round in 10-team leagues.

    Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots

    Last year, LeGarrette Blount turned the Patriots' goal line/power back role into a No. 9 ranking among fantasy running backs last season.

    Gillislee was brought in to take over that role, yet he also provides tremendous breakaway ability. Last season, Gillislee posted a 10.1-yard mark in my good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) metric that measures how productive a ball carrier is when given good run blocking (roughly defined as not allowing the defense to disrupt a rush attempt). That made him one of only four backs with 100 or more carries to rack up a double-digit GBYPA last season.

    Gillislee's draft value has dropped of late due to his battling a hamstring injury and the possibility that Rex Burkhead could vulture some of his carries, but let's run a couple of numbers here. Last season, Blount scored 232.9 points on 506 snaps, or 0.46 points per snap. Gillislee was in a slightly less powerful Buffalo offense and still managed to equal Blount's per-snap point production at 0.46.

    At his current No. 26 ADP, Gillislee would have to score roughly 162 points to provide a solid return on investment. At the 0.46 points-per-snap pace, that means he would have to tally only 352 snaps to reach that mark, or 154 fewer snaps than Blount posted last season. The odds that he does that are very reasonable, but if Gillislee does end up matching Blount's snap count from last season, he will give low-tier RB1 or high-tier RB2 value to a fantasy owner selecting him as a midtier RB3.

    Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

    It's never a good idea to expect players to repeat elite seasons, which is why many fantasy owners are being careful not to overpay for Atlanta prospects based on their superb 2016 numbers.

    That mindset is understandable in many cases, but it is being taken way too far in Coleman's case. Last season, he scored 191.1 fantasy points, a mark that placed tied for 19th among running backs, but this season fantasy owners currently have him pegged as the No. 33 running back. To get an idea of how much of a production decline that is, note that last season the No. 33 running back scored 140.5 points, or more than 50 fewer points than Coleman posted.

    That is a huge drop-off for an offense that could be relying even more on its running backs this season. Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons' new offensive coordinator, sometimes leaned on the ground game to record levels in college. His 2013 Washington Huskies team set a program record for rushing attempts (610) and yards (3,107) in a single season and his 2014 USC offense had Javorius Allen, whose 1,489 rushing yards were the most by a Trojan since 2005.

    Sarkisian also has indicated he will fully utilize the Falcons running backs in the passing game as well, saying that Coleman and Devonta Freeman are two electric players who are bad coverage matchups for most defenders.

    Barring a complete collapse, there is no way that Coleman is going to see a decline to RB4 level. He has a strong chance of coming close to last year's numbers and if better health helps him improve upon his 332 snaps last season, Coleman could even contend for midtier RB2 status.

    Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

    Ingram placed eighth in running back fantasy points last season (242.2), but is down to No. 22 in ADP at the position, which is a 27 percent decline in value based on last year's production figures at that ADP.

    The primary reason that should be considered Ingram's production floor is he posted his point total on only 251 combined rushes and receptions. Since Ingram has posted 46 or more receptions in each of the past two seasons, he would only need roughly 200 carries in order to equal last year's workload. Some may think that will be a difficult task given the Saints' addition of Adrian Peterson, but ESPN NFL Nation Saints reporter Mike Triplett says that Ingram is the safe bet to play the most snaps out of this group, so a 200-carry season looks to be par for the course.

    Ingram also will be able to rely on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, as the Saints placed third in my projected offensive line rankings for the 2017 season.

    Meanwhile, Kamara showed incredible home run ability at times during his Tennessee tenure, as he became the only Volunteers player to ever rack up 300 or more yards in a single game and was only the second Tennessee player to post 100 or more yards rushing and receiving in the same game. His 50-yard touchdown burst against the Los Angeles Chargers this past weekend illustrates that Kamara's breakaway speed can translate to pro-level production as well.

    Travaris Cadet finished 51st among running backs last season while serving as the Saints' third-down back. That should be Kamara's role this season, but he is generally going undrafted. This disparity makes him a great waiver-wire pickup in smaller leagues and a late-round pick with tremendous upside potential in deeper leagues.
     

  2. #27  
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    Value fantasy running backs with high floors and high ceilings in 2017
    KC Joyner
    ESPN Insider
    8/24/17

    Fantasy football owners are always looking to manage risk. This is the mindset that drives owners to select handcuff running backs, shun players with significant injury histories and rarely pay top draft dollar for rookies.

    Those tactics are all useful, but one of the most beneficial fantasy risk-management techniques is finding players who fall into the rare high-floor/high-ceiling category.
    These players are extremely likely to return enough point production value to justify their average draft position (ADP), yet have the kind of upside potential that could move them up a tier or higher at their position (i.e. a low-tier RB3 who can provide RB2 value, in an upside scenario).

    I've covered some of these high-floor/high-ceiling prospects at wide receiver with Brandin Cooks and a couple of times at quarterback -- one residing in Tampa and a veteran coming off an injury in Carolina -- so it's time to look at the running backs who qualify for this very important category.

    Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

    Cook was a collegiate phenom, as he is the only ACC player to ever rush for 4,000 yards in three seasons and had the most career all-purpose yards by an ACC player who didn't have any return yardage.

    That game-breaking ability has piqued fantasy owners' interest, but what should get their full attention is Cook's pass-blocking history. Nothing will get a rookie running back pulled from the lineup faster than subpar pass protection, but Cook logged a vast amount of experience in this area in Florida State's pro-style offense.

    According to Stats LLC, Cook tallied 820 career snaps on passing plays, yet he had only 104 targets on those plays and thus was in pass protection mode much of the time. This is a major part of why Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur recently said he "absolutely" trusts Cook in pass protection. This confidence should open the door for Cook to sprint past the oft-injured Latavius Murray to take over either as the lead back in a committee setup or even vault close to true bell cow status. Either of those workload volumes would return Cook's current low-tier RB2 ADP (47.2, as of this writing), but the latter could give Cook low-tier RB1 upside that would make him a fantastic selection late in the fifth round in 10-team leagues.

    Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots

    Last year, LeGarrette Blount turned the Patriots' goal line/power back role into a No. 9 ranking among fantasy running backs last season.

    Gillislee was brought in to take over that role, yet he also provides tremendous breakaway ability. Last season, Gillislee posted a 10.1-yard mark in my good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) metric that measures how productive a ball carrier is when given good run blocking (roughly defined as not allowing the defense to disrupt a rush attempt). That made him one of only four backs with 100 or more carries to rack up a double-digit GBYPA last season.

    Gillislee's draft value has dropped of late due to his battling a hamstring injury and the possibility that Rex Burkhead could vulture some of his carries, but let's run a couple of numbers here. Last season, Blount scored 232.9 points on 506 snaps, or 0.46 points per snap. Gillislee was in a slightly less powerful Buffalo offense and still managed to equal Blount's per-snap point production at 0.46.

    At his current No. 26 ADP, Gillislee would have to score roughly 162 points to provide a solid return on investment. At the 0.46 points-per-snap pace, that means he would have to tally only 352 snaps to reach that mark, or 154 fewer snaps than Blount posted last season. The odds that he does that are very reasonable, but if Gillislee does end up matching Blount's snap count from last season, he will give low-tier RB1 or high-tier RB2 value to a fantasy owner selecting him as a midtier RB3.

    Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

    It's never a good idea to expect players to repeat elite seasons, which is why many fantasy owners are being careful not to overpay for Atlanta prospects based on their superb 2016 numbers.

    That mindset is understandable in many cases, but it is being taken way too far in Coleman's case. Last season, he scored 191.1 fantasy points, a mark that placed tied for 19th among running backs, but this season fantasy owners currently have him pegged as the No. 33 running back. To get an idea of how much of a production decline that is, note that last season the No. 33 running back scored 140.5 points, or more than 50 fewer points than Coleman posted.

    That is a huge drop-off for an offense that could be relying even more on its running backs this season. Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons' new offensive coordinator, sometimes leaned on the ground game to record levels in college. His 2013 Washington Huskies team set a program record for rushing attempts (610) and yards (3,107) in a single season and his 2014 USC offense had Javorius Allen, whose 1,489 rushing yards were the most by a Trojan since 2005.

    Sarkisian also has indicated he will fully utilize the Falcons running backs in the passing game as well, saying that Coleman and Devonta Freeman are two electric players who are bad coverage matchups for most defenders.

    Barring a complete collapse, there is no way that Coleman is going to see a decline to RB4 level. He has a strong chance of coming close to last year's numbers and if better health helps him improve upon his 332 snaps last season, Coleman could even contend for midtier RB2 status.

    Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

    Ingram placed eighth in running back fantasy points last season (242.2), but is down to No. 22 in ADP at the position, which is a 27 percent decline in value based on last year's production figures at that ADP.

    The primary reason that should be considered Ingram's production floor is he posted his point total on only 251 combined rushes and receptions. Since Ingram has posted 46 or more receptions in each of the past two seasons, he would only need roughly 200 carries in order to equal last year's workload. Some may think that will be a difficult task given the Saints' addition of Adrian Peterson, but ESPN NFL Nation Saints reporter Mike Triplett says that Ingram is the safe bet to play the most snaps out of this group, so a 200-carry season looks to be par for the course.

    Ingram also will be able to rely on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, as the Saints placed third in my projected offensive line rankings for the 2017 season.

    Meanwhile, Kamara showed incredible home run ability at times during his Tennessee tenure, as he became the only Volunteers player to ever rack up 300 or more yards in a single game and was only the second Tennessee player to post 100 or more yards rushing and receiving in the same game. His 50-yard touchdown burst against the Los Angeles Chargers this past weekend illustrates that Kamara's breakaway speed can translate to pro-level production as well.

    Travaris Cadet finished 51st among running backs last season while serving as the Saints' third-down back. That should be Kamara's role this season, but he is generally going undrafted. This disparity makes him a great waiver-wire pickup in smaller leagues and a late-round pick with tremendous upside potential in deeper leagues.
     

  3. #28  
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    Injuries to Edelman, Ware, Meredith shake up rankings
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    8/28/17

    An NFL game that actually counts in the standings is scheduled for a week from Thursday, as the Kansas City Chiefs will travel to face the New England Patriots to open the 2017 regular season. Itís been a notably rough preseason weekend full of serious injuries and those AFC contenders were arguably affected the most, as Chiefs starting running back Spencer Ware and Patriots standout wide receiver Julian Edelman suffered season-ending knee injuries.

    While these NFL teams have replacements lined up, fantasy owners who had already selected Ware and Edelman canít be the least bit pleased. Truth be told, neither of these players were ending up on my teams, for different reasons, but nobody enjoys seeing significant injuries removing top players from the game. And to think, these games were simply meaningless. Thereís one more week of preseason, but mercifully most fantasy relevant options will not be suiting up.
    As for the Chiefs, I had become thisclose to moving rookie Kareem Hunt ahead of Ware anyway, half expecting the Toledo product was going to usurp the starting role from the veteran before Week 1, or at some point in September. Ware was far from efficient last season, didnít find the end zone much and one could easily argue Hunt, a third-round draft pick, is simply better, albeit obviously inexperienced. Now one of my favorite sleepers can no longer carry that designation!

    As a result, Iíve moved Hunt into my top 15 running backs, a potential late third-round choice, and nestled among the other top rookies. Heís right after Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, and ahead of Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon. Hey, all these guys are good, potentially awesome. They simply crave opportunity. Nobody knows if all five of them will end up stars and earning our love, as having this many rookies do so would be historic, but thatís a chance Iím willing to take. I did move Chiefs backup Charcandrick West into my top-60 running backs in case he matters, but donít expect it. And donít bother with C.J. Spiller.

    As for the Patriots, even in PPR settings Edelman had been passed for fantasy value by new teammate Brandin Cooks, a touchdown maker on the outside who complements the teamís running game and tight end Rob Gronkowski so well. The Patriots used Edelman quite often from the slot, where he had caught 90 or more passes three times in four seasons -- and likely would have been 4-for-4 if not for injury in 2015 -- but slot receivers are easier to find than speedy outside threats. They also donít tend to score many touchdowns, which was an issue with Edelman in fantasy. The Patriots can turn to Danny Amendola, who basically replaced Edelman in the slot in 2015, to similar but less statistical fanfare.

    Because this is the Patriots, however, more than one fellow is likely to benefit, or at least be affected. On the Chiefs, it is mostly one guy. While the Patriots use many offensive sets, they were likely to use Chris Hogan mostly on the outside, and while it can be argued his value rises with Edelmanís demise, itís not enough to make him a coveted player. I moved Hogan and Amendola into my 12th round. The Patriots can use their many running backs as receivers as well. And letís be honest: Nobody knows what Pats head coach Bill Belichick will do. If you want to draft Hogan in Round 7, be my guest. Take Rex Burkhead in the eighth round, too. I canít say Belichick wonít heavily rely on them.

    Ultimately, as we try to define fantasy value, the Edelman injury drove me to move Cooks into my top 10 at wide receiver, for he should see more targets as a result and thereís upside for bigger numbers than he produced in New Orleans with Drew Brees. Gronkowski moved up a few spots in the overall, while Hogan and Amendola become reasonable late-round picks. And no, I donít think Tom Bradyís overall numbers are affected here.

    While Ware and Edelman were each being selected among the top 20 at their respective positions and top 50 overall, there was another major knee debacle this weekend to a relevant fantasy option and it shouldnít be ignored. Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith had seen his stock rise recently, as fantasy owners realized the Bears really could have a reasonable passing game this season, and he was the top target. Now heís not. At the time he hurt his knee Sunday, Meredith was among the top risers in ESPN ADP over the past week.

    Fantasy owners will likely get excited about West Virginia product Kevin White, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 draft who has caught 19 passes in two years, and Iím not saying thatís wrong, but Iím ranking former Titans castoff Kendall Wright similar to White. Wright is an experienced slot option and reportedly healthy. White, meanwhile, seems to rarely be healthy. Neither cracks my top-60 wide receivers yet, so in a way, Iím viewing this passing game a tad similar to the Jets, but with more upside. After all, the Bears quarterback is either Mike Glennon or a rookie. The Jets have Josh McCown. Tough to trust the receivers, but Meredith should have overcome it, much like the Cleveland Browns wide receivers last season and this year.

    Other weekend QB thoughts: As for those Browns, they have decided Notre Dame rookie DeShone Kizer will start in Week 1 against the Steelers. While itís easy to be skeptical and avoid the teamís receivers, donít. Strange things happen and the Browns did have a 1,000-yard receiver last season, and the QB play certainly wasnít good. Kizer might be good, though probably not Dak Prescott-good. I rank Kizer No. 27 at quarterback for 2017, but in a dynasty format, move him up. Ö The Jaguars will stick with Blake Bortles for Week 1, but itís hard to see how heíll keep the job if he struggles. Chad Henne, who isnít young or better, lurks. That said, Bortles was a top-10 fantasy QB the past two seasons. We canít write him off as potentially relevant yet again, but itís always risky to assume there will be consistent fourth-quarter fantasy points when the team is trailing. Ö Buffalo starter Tyrod Taylor suffered a concussion and while he could and should be ready for Week 1, one has to wonder if the rebuilding Bills might still opt for rookie Nathan Peterman, who didnít exactly shine statistically against the Ravens. Iíve actually moved Taylor down in my rankings, because I donít trust the Bills let him start 16 games anymore. It might not be fair, but itís realistic.

    Other weekend RB thoughts: Titans running back DeMarco Murray was starting to worry people because he hadnít played this preseason, which is inherently foolish, but he got into Sundayís game and turned six carries into 16 yards. More importantly, he wasnít carted off the field. Heís fine and could easily have another great season. Ö While Dallas backup Alfred Morris had the bigger statistical performance than Darren McFadden, rushing nine times for 56 yards, I still view McFadden as the starter the first seven weeks until Ezekiel Elliott comes off suspension. Ö New Saint Adrian Peterson made his preseason debut to little statistical result, which tells us about as much as if he hadnít played at all. Iíd still take Mark Ingram as a flex. Ö New Bronco Jamaal Charles, however, shined in his brief action, totaling 42 yards on six touches. I still like rookie DeíAngelo Henderson to push overrated incumbent C.J. Anderson in that backfield, but Charles should be involved in the passing game at least. Ö The sleeper in the Seattle backfield is rookie Chris Carson, and he turned his 10 touches into 90 yards against the Chiefs, but heís still likely behind Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. Problem is itís getting tough to trust any of those guys. So basically what Iím saying is after recommending Hunt for months, Iím turning to Carson if you want an unheralded rookie running back to watch (and Henderson).

    Other weekend WR thoughts: Arizona wide receiver John Brown, whom I called a sleeper months ago but backed off recently because head coach Bruce Arians continues to make clear to reporters heís irritated with the playerís lack of health, caught two passes for 49 yards Saturday, and each was a touchdown. I never doubted the upside and potential relevance. He could be a major deep threat and 1,000-yard receiver. But heís gotta stay on the field, and thereís not much proof that will happen. Ö Jets rookie ArDarius Stewart is among my targets in deeper formats, and he caught 82 yards worth of passes and two touchdowns this weekend. On a normal team, since the production came later in the game, it might mean nothing. But the Jets are a mess. Stewart could start opposite Robby Anderson in Week 1. Ö The lone catch for Indyís Donte Moncrief on Saturday was a short pass that he turned into a 55-yarder. Again, we know he can play, but can he stay healthy? And the concern over quarterback Andrew Luck being available in September hangs over Colts playmakers.
     

  4. #29  
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    Top-10 receivers, rookie runners lead list of players I'm targeting
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    8/29/17

    Some fantasy analysts will tell you if you’re not finishing first in your league, then it might as well be last. The premise is understandable, that one should do whatever it takes to win, and if that means taking a few chances with draft picks or trades that might not pan out and could reduce your team to rubble before Halloween, then so be it. The win is the thing. The thing is, in the myriad drafts I’ve already taken part in, whether they counted or not, I’ve been cautious. It showed in my oft-misinterpreted “Do Not Draft” article, as I avoided risky players with early picks, and it shows here as I detail some of the players consistently showing up on my many teams.

    Really, what better way to establish a list of players whom I like or am targeting than to check my many teams and find repeat names? I’ve drafted first, last and in between and while my favorite spot is definitely first, because securing the safe, reliable Arizona running back David Johnson and then grabbing the best available at the Round 2/3 turn is optimal, I also have had no issues picking last in the first round and eagerly snatching up a pair of the best available there, which tends to be a pair of wide receivers detailed below.

    Whatever the case, thank you for following along this busy August as we examined the many tiers of the big three positions -- and many have changed, so check out the constantly updated Insider Cheat Sheet -- as well as draft strategy, players to avoid based on their current values, many breakouts and the preseason weekend wraps. It’s a lot. And now, it’s about time for the games to count. I’ve still got a few drafts to go, and here are players that I’ll likely keep targeting, based on my patterns over the past month.

    Quarterback

    Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz

    Well, I’m clearly not going to budge on my directive to avoid quarterbacks in the early rounds, and it seems I’ve really been waiting a while. Why not? There’s tremendous depth and these first three fellows specifically could easily end up as top-10 fantasy quarterbacks. Two of them actually did last season. For some reason, people don’t expect repeat performances. For leagues that start two quarterbacks, my strategy this season has been not to reach for a top guy early, but to insure I’m getting two of the top 15 options, even if neither is considered a definite top-10 guy, and Wentz and Rivers fit the mold.

    Running back

    Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Danny Woodhead, Rob Kelley, Terrance West, Mike Gillislee, Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson Jr., Thomas Rawls, Jacquizz Rodgers, Marlon Mack, Chris Carson, De'Angelo Henderson

    OK, so that’s a lot of names. First of all, and perhaps subliminally, I do have some level of concern for most every top-10 running back in ESPN ADP other than David Johnson, LeSean McCoy and Gordon. With Le’Veon Bell, it’s more injuries, more suspensions and this ill-timed holdout (as if there is ever a good time). Devonta Freeman just got really rich, and his backup might be as good as he is. Jay Ajayi had nearly half his 2017 rushing yards in three games. DeMarco Murray was awful two seasons ago. Jordan Howard doesn’t catch passes. Todd Gurley, well, I don’t need to tell you. I’d still draft all of them, but what I keep doing is avoiding them and taking wide receivers. Gordon is a notable exception.

    After that, I find it odd how the pass-catching options are slipping in drafts since pretty much all these drafts for me have been PPR versions. Two years ago, Woodhead was a top-five PPR option, and he’s capable of duplicating the performance. He’s also capable of missing many games, but the risk in Round 7 is hardly the same as it is if Ajayi or Gurley struggle. Powell will catch 70 passes for the Jets. McCaffrey could do this for Carolina. And Johnson should see improvement as well, even as I do like Crowell.

    Those who have followed my work for years know I’m generally not the one recommending rookies, but talent and opportunity have collided for a slew of these guys. The minute the Chiefs drafted Hunt, I was basically all in because I didn’t think Spencer Ware was good enough to hold him off. That situation changed this weekend, but I’ve got shares of Hunt everywhere and was willing to reach a few rounds. Now I’ll really need to reach and it might still be worth it. Frankly, I doubt I’ve ever ranked five rookie running backs among my top 20 at the position, but I’m doing it. And later on I like these sleeper rookies in Indianapolis, Seattle and Denver.

    Wide receiver

    Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, Terrelle Pryor Sr., Demaryius Thomas, Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams, Pierre Garcon, DeVante Parker, Rishard Matthews, Zay Jones, Ted Ginn Jr., John Brown

    The recent Odell Beckham Jr. injury situation has me actually pondering Evans as the No. 2 wide receiver, but since I’ve been somewhat alone on having Evans in my top five overall, I’ve still been getting him. I’ve also got Michael Thomas in my top 10. A few of my teams have started with this combination, and I’m all for it. With the Julian Edelman injury, I’ve since moved Cooks into that territory, as well. Don’t enter any draft saying you have to go running back or receiver first and then reverse after that or a tight end in Round -- go best available flex option, whether it’s RB or WR, for seven or more rounds until you need to get a QB or TE.

    With Crabtree, Tate, Williams, Garcon and -- until recently -- Parker, the reason I’ve been getting them on my teams is because their value has been misinterpreted. Some believe Crabtree can’t be a top-20 wide receiver alongside Amari Cooper. Um, OK, but Crabtree has scored more fantasy points than his younger, supposedly better teammate both seasons. Tate catches a ton of Stafford passes and will again. Mike Williams isn’t suiting up for Rivers anytime soon, meaning Tyrell Williams gets huge opportunity again. I believe Brian Hoyer and the 49ers can have a reasonable pass offense -- shocking! -- and Garcon isn’t done yet as a key statistical provider. With Parker, his stock has risen quickly with Jay Cutler, but it is warranted.

    Later on in drafts, I seem to be ending up receivers like Matthews and Ginn that nobody else likes, which is fine. Yes, the Titans brought in Eric Decker and drafted a rookie, and Matthews is way under the radar, but proven and healthy. And Ginn won’t match the production Cooks enjoyed with Drew Brees, but if he can control the drops somewhat, he can be valuable. With Arizona’s John Brown, he just has to stay healthy.

    In a general sense, I’ve been avoiding the rookie wide receivers unless it’s late in a standard league or later in a deeper format, but I do think Buffalo’s Jones has a wonderful opportunity. And while it’s not at the same level because of the quarterback, Cooper Kupp and ArDarius Stewart could start for the Rams and Jets, respectively. And as we saw with last season’s Browns, as Pryor topped 1,000 receiving yards, even teams with quarterback dysfunction can generate relevant wide receivers.

    Tight end

    Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, Jack Doyle, Cameron Brate

    Nothing against Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen, healthy and reliable options at a position with many question marks, but I’m always waiting at this position. Ertz in Round 10 is tremendous value, and Henry and Doyle should emerge this season. As for Brate, it’s hard to find many rookie tight ends that really aid fantasy owners over the years, and O.J. Howard might have a really bright future, but Brate is this year’s guy.
     

  5. #30  
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    Deep-league and dynasty sleepers to stash and monitor
    Mike Clay
    ESPN INSIDER
    8/29/17

    Let's be honest. It's hard to mess up your first few picks. Whether you're picking high scorers from 2016, following a cheat sheet or just taking the highest-ranked dude in the draft room, you'll have to go out of your way to truly sabotage your draft.

    Things start to get trickier in the middle rounds, however, and get a lot more fun in the later stages. This is especially the case in deep and keeper/dynasty leagues. In these formats, it's important to prioritize more than just short-term success. In deep, season-long leagues, you're looking to find high-ceiling prospects to stash on your bench with the hopes of a late-season emergence. In dynasty formats, you're eyeing similar players, but also those who could make for a viable starting option in a year or two.

    Down below is a list of 10 overlooked players who you should be considering for the end of your bench in deep and dynasty formats.

    Note: Because rookies are often over-hyped and many are already stashed on the end of benches (and rightly so -- upside of the unknown and all), I don't go into them in detail here. However, I did mention a few rookies to keep an eye on at the very end of the piece.

    The potential 2017 starters


    Chester Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts -- "Tre" went undrafted and appeared to be nothing more than a camp body last offseason. His prospects changed after an impressive preseason that included 14 receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown on 17 targets. Rogers defied the odds by not only making the Colts' 53-man roster but having gone on to play 398 snaps, posting a 33-target, 19-catch, 276-yard, 0 TD stat line in 14 games. Rogers continued his climb up the depth chart during the offseason and had a leg up on Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken for the team's No. 3 wideout job before suffering a hamstring injury in August. The 6-foot-1, 184-pound Grambling State product and young man at a reunion is only 23 years old and, once healthy, is positioned to play a significant role in a high-scoring offense led (once healthy) by Andrew Luck.

    Top 80 fantasy football rookie rankings for dynasty leagues
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    Ricardo Louis, WR, Cleveland Browns -- Louis was an unheralded fourth-round pick during a 2016 NFL draft that saw the Browns draft three other wide receivers and WR/TE Seth DeValve. Louis went on to play 303 snaps, posting an unimpressive 33-18-205-0 line that included four drops. The Auburn product stands 6-foot-2 and generated league interest after showing off his terrific athleticism at the combine. Louis ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, posted the longest broad jump (132 inches) and managed 18 reps on the bench. A versatile weapon, Louis was utilized as a rusher and receiver at Auburn, although he didn't register a carry as a rookie. Offseason reports on Louis have been very positive, and the 23-year-old is the favorite to open his second season as Cleveland's No. 3 receiver.

    Demarcus Robinson, WR, Kansas City Chiefs -- Robinson is another wide receiver who was selected in the fourth round last year, but who has received little chatter about a potential second-year leap. Robinson's final season at Florida and combine performance were rather nondescript, but he's a quick, flashy player who drew Mike Wallace comparisons as a potential lid-lifter at the pro level. Kansas City cut ties with Jeremy Maclin during the offseason, which opens the door for Robinson to compete with the likes of Chris Conley, Albert Wilson and rookie Jehu Chesson for snaps and targets behind Tyreek Hill. Depth receivers in Kansas City have had little fantasy value, but playing time is up for grabs for Robinson, and this offense figures to have a different look in 2018 when Patrick Mahomes II is likely to be under center.

    The specialists

    Jalen Richard, RB, Oakland Raiders -- Richard went undrafted last year, but he showed enough on 13 preseason touches to make Oakland's 53-man roster. The 5-foot-8, 207-pound scat back could not have started his NFL career better, exploding for a 75-yard touchdown on his first carry. He went on to average 5.9 yards per carry (second-highest at the position) and 2.7 yards after contact (third) on 83 carries, while also adding 29 receptions, 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a change-of-pace back to Latavius Murray. Marshawn Lynch is now Oakland's feature back, and 2016 fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington is the favorite to handle handcuff duties, but Richard is only 23 years old and played well enough as a rookie that he's well worth stashing.

    Xavier Grimble, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers -- Grimble went undrafted in 2014 but has worked his way up the depth chart and into fantasy relevance over the past several seasons. The Steelers cut Ladarius Green loose during the offseason, which positions Grimble in a competition with Jesse James for snaps at tight end in one of the league's best offenses. Grimble made his NFL debut last season and posted a 20-11-118-2 line over 181 snaps. Though James the favorite for the starting gig in Pittsburgh, Grimble is expected to be on the field and a candidate for targets when the team is near the goal line. The 24-year-old is a sneaky bet for a half-dozen touchdowns.

    Erik Swoope, TE, Indianapolis Colts -- Jack Doyle was one of fantasy's top breakout tight ends last year, but ESPN NFL Nation Colts reporter Mike Wells has suggested Doyle could do more blocking this season, which would allow ex-Miami-basketball star Swoope to emerge as the team's top receiving target at the position. Swoope, who had never played organized football before signing with the Colts in 2014, played 240 snaps last season and averaged a ridiculous 19.8 yards per reception on 15 catches. The 25-year-old is a near lock to play a bigger role in 2017, though a mid-August knee scope likely means a slow start to the year.

    The post-hype dart throws


    Matt Jones hasn't done much as a pro, but that doesn't mean he couldn't make a mark down the road. Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire
    Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins -- Let's get this out of the way first: I didn't like Jones as a prospect out of Florida and was surprised he was selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft. Jones was also one of the least effective runners in the NFL as a rookie, and his 2016 flameout was far from a surprise. That said, a closer look at Jones' 2016 production suggests there's still hope for a rebound. Jones carried the ball 99 times for 460 yards and three touchdowns. His 4.6 YPC ranked 20th in the league, and his 2.0 YAC ranked 17th. That was a heck of a turnaround after he posted 3.4/1.4 marks on 144 rookie-season carries. Jones also caught all eight of his targets and sports a career receiving line of 33-24-379-1. The reason Jones was benched wasn't effectiveness, it was turnovers. He fumbled three times to bring his career total to seven on 243 touches. Jones remains on the Redskins' roster, but he's buried behind Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson, and thus a likely cut prior to Week 1. If he can fix his turnover issue, Jones will have a shot to re-emerge down the road. After all, he's only 24 years old and sports a massive 6-foot-2, 231-pound frame.

    Andre Williams, RB, Los Angeles Chargers -- Williams is yet another player who I've been extremely hard on, as his career production entering last year was nothing short of awful. Williams played a gigantic role with the Giants as a rookie but was held to only 3.3 YPC on 217 carries. He was even worse in his second year, posting a 2.9 YPC over 88 attempts. The Giants eventually waived Williams, and he landed with the Chargers. Williams performed well in his only game last season, posting an 18-87-0 rushing line in Week 17. Granted it was a very small sample of work, but Williams looked better than in the past. And the improved play isn't completely shocking when you consider that he was no longer in a Ben McAdoo offense that has yet to post a successful rushing season and is a jacked 5-foot-11, 230-pound former Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist. The 24-year-old is currently fighting with Branden Oliver for handcuff duties behind Melvin Gordon. If Gordon misses time, which he has each of his first two NFL seasons, Williams will have his shot at redemption.

    The pure stashes

    Rico Gathers, TE, Dallas Cowboys -- Gathers is a former basketball player and 2016 sixth-round pick who has generated recent hype, thanks to a highly productive preseason. Gathers is a massive specimen at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, but like the aforementioned Swoope, Gathers did not play football in high school or college. This is clearly a raw player with a ton of upside. He's likely to begin 2017 as nothing more than a situational goal line target, but expect Dallas to continue grooming Gathers as an eventual heir to 35-year-old Jason Witten.

    Stephen Anderson, TE, Houston Texans -- Whether it's heavy sets or the barrage of targets in 2016, Bill O'Brien's offense has been kind to the tight end position. Anderson was a relatively unsung prospect when he entered the league last year, but he went on to sign with Houston as an undrafted free agent and won the No. 3 job behind C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin. Anderson's size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) figures to limit his ability to work as an in-line blocker, but he has upside as a receiver and his 4.64 wheels supply him with big-play ability. Anderson is a name to keep filed away, especially with Fiedorowicz entering a contract year.

    The rookies

    Though I excluded rookies from this piece, there are overlooked first-year players to watch and monitor who are an injury or depth chart adjustment away from a sizable role. They include 49ers TE George Kittle, Chiefs WR Jehu Chesson, Falcons RB Brian Hill, Jets RB Elijah McGuire, Bills QB Nathan Peterman, Seahawks RB Chris Carson, Giants RB Wayne Gallman, Cardinals WR Chad Williams and Eagles WR Mack Hollins.

    A few additional rookies to keep stashed in dynasty leagues are Patriots WR Austin Carr, Raiders RB Elijah Hood, Bengals WR Josh Malone, Rams WR Josh Reynolds, Broncos TE Jake Butt and Packers WR Malachi Dupre.
     

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    McShay's rookie fantasy rankings: Top 2017 players, sleepers
    Todd McShay
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/1/17

    Every year, a few rookies become real fantasy difference-makers. In 2014, Odell Beckham Jr.'s breakout performance won plenty of fantasy leagues. In 2015, Todd Gurley cruised to the fifth-best season of all running backs, despite sitting out the first three games. And last season, we all saw the performances of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

    Let's break down which rookies have the right combination of skill, opportunity and health to shine in Year 1.

    Here are my top five fantasy rookies and my top five sleepers:

    Top rookies overall


    1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings were surprised Cook lasted until Day 2 of the draft, and they traded up to No. 41 to grab him. The reason for that drop was primarily off-the-field issues, because on the field, there's not much this guy can't do. He has looked explosive this preseason and appears set to be the starter, with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon spelling him. He should catch plenty of passes out of the backfield as well. The real question is whether the offensive line can open up holes for him.

    2. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    When you draft a running back at No. 4 overall, he had better be a special player. That's exactly how I would describe Fournette. He has the power, vision and speed to be a difference-maker. His foot injury will be one to monitor, but it's clear the Jaguars want to run the football as often as possible and avoid having Blake Bortles throw. That should mean plenty of touches for Fournette.


    3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    Another very high draft pick (No. 8), McCaffrey has elite agility and breakaway speed and he is a nightmare to defend one-on-one. Look for the Panthers to move him around, including out of the slot, and to get the ball out of Cam Newton's hands quickly and into McCaffrey's hands in space. He's also dangerous as a punt returner.


    4. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

    The No. 5 overall pick has had a quiet preseason because of a hamstring injury, but I don't expect him to take long to get up to speed. A crisp route runner, he should be the No. 1 option in Tennessee and quickly become Marcus Mariota's favorite target.


    5. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    With Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the outside, teams won't be able to double Howard. He has shown what he can do in big moments (see the past two College Football Playoff National Championships), and he doesn't have to come off the field because he's a solid run-blocker. I expect a big year.

    Top sleepers


    1. Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

    In a crowded Lions pass-catching group, Golladay has flashed this preseason, with his two-touchdown performance standing out in the first game. The third-round pick should see some action as the season progresses.

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    Sep 1, 2017
    Todd McShay
    ESPN Senior Writer
    Every year, a few rookies become real fantasy difference-makers. In 2014, Odell Beckham Jr.'s breakout performance won plenty of fantasy leagues. In 2015, Todd Gurley cruised to the fifth-best season of all running backs, despite sitting out the first three games. And last season, we all saw the performances of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

    Let's break down which rookies have the right combination of skill, opportunity and health to shine in Year 1.

    Here are my top five fantasy rookies and my top five sleepers:

    Top rookies overall


    1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    The Vikings were surprised Cook lasted until Day 2 of the draft, and they traded up to No. 41 to grab him. The reason for that drop was primarily off-the-field issues, because on the field, there's not much this guy can't do. He has looked explosive this preseason and appears set to be the starter, with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon spelling him. He should catch plenty of passes out of the backfield as well. The real question is whether the offensive line can open up holes for him.



    Dalvin Cook looks like he'll be a weapon in both the rushing and passing games for the Vikings this season. Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    2. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    When you draft a running back at No. 4 overall, he had better be a special player. That's exactly how I would describe Fournette. He has the power, vision and speed to be a difference-maker. His foot injury will be one to monitor, but it's clear the Jaguars want to run the football as often as possible and avoid having Blake Bortles throw. That should mean plenty of touches for Fournette.


    3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    Another very high draft pick (No. 8), McCaffrey has elite agility and breakaway speed and he is a nightmare to defend one-on-one. Look for the Panthers to move him around, including out of the slot, and to get the ball out of Cam Newton's hands quickly and into McCaffrey's hands in space. He's also dangerous as a punt returner.


    4. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans



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    The No. 5 overall pick has had a quiet preseason because of a hamstring injury, but I don't expect him to take long to get up to speed. A crisp route runner, he should be the No. 1 option in Tennessee and quickly become Marcus Mariota's favorite target.


    5. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    With Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the outside, teams won't be able to double Howard. He has shown what he can do in big moments (see the past two College Football Playoff National Championships), and he doesn't have to come off the field because he's a solid run-blocker. I expect a big year.

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    Top sleepers


    1. Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

    In a crowded Lions pass-catching group, Golladay has flashed this preseason, with his two-touchdown performance standing out in the first game. The third-round pick should see some action as the season progresses.


    Evan Engram provides Eli Manning with another dynamic pass-catching option. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

    2. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

    Engram is basically an oversized wide receiver, and he has the size/speed combo to generate mismatches in the slot. There should be plenty of targets to go around, even with Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall in the mix.

    3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    Even though Kamara is only third on the depth chart right now, the Saints traded up to pick him, so they must have a plan to get him the ball. Saints running backs caught 127 passes last season, and Kamara excels as a pass-catcher. He has excellent quickness and elusiveness in the open field.


    4. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    Mixon also is third on the depth chart right now, but he has the most natural talent of any of Cincinnati's running backs -- and is arguably the most talented running back in this year's rookie class. I'd expect his carries to increase as the season progresses -- and the Bengals to find more ways to get him touches.


    5. Cooper Kupp, WR, St. Louis Rams

    A late-round value, Kupp caught six of his seven targets in the Rams' third preseason game. He broke the FCS records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns while at Eastern Washington. He's a Week 1 starter in the slot for the Rams.
     

  7. #32  
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    Is Colts QB Andrew Luck worth drafting at all?
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/4/17

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN Senior Writer
    Fantasy owners really can’t accuse the Indianapolis Colts of being dishonest about the unfortunate situation with Andrew Luck and his troublesome throwing shoulder. On Monday the Colts made it official the star quarterback would not start Week 1, news which shouldn’t have surprised anyone, since we’ve been discussing it as likely for more than a month. I removed Luck from my top-10 quarterback rankings a while ago, speculating we’d see him in October. That might be true -- or it might take longer.

    None of this means fantasy owners still drafting in the next few days should affirmatively ignore Luck, an obvious top-five quarterback when healthy, but I have been, and certainly there’s risk in choosing him in the first 10 rounds. It’s one thing for fantasy owners to find great value in selecting suspended running backs with a finite amount of time to be served. The Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell was still terrific in 2016. The Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott should be this season, though it’s quite embarrassing we still don’t know his precise status because, well, whatever.

    Quarterback is different because there’s incredible depth, so risking an early pick on one we know is hurt makes little sense, at least to me. I realize my colleagues have been preaching value and upside when it comes to Luck and Elliott and even Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams for shallow 10-team formats, since free agency is loaded, but the fact is drafts aren’t always about value. They’re also about roster construction and reliability and statistical floors. Owning several QBs before Week 1 is not ideal. Luck was not placed on the organization’s PUP list, meaning he can return within six weeks and can practice with the team, but it hardly means he starts Weeks 2, 3 or 4. As you might have guessed, I'm not excited to deal with this situation at all, even in shallow leagues. It's not like at running back.

    The Colts added modest fuel to the rumor fire this weekend by trading wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, not long ago a first-round pick with mad fantasy upside thanks to Luck (albeit unrealized), to New England for a backup quarterback who actually was added in a few of my deep leagues. Jacoby Brissett might end up relevant, in theory. (So might Dorsett, I suppose.) Scott Tolzien starts this week and it obviously hurts the ranking of remaining Colts wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief and makes the Los Angeles Rams defense mighty attractive. It doesn’t mean Luck is likely to miss September, even though the longer the balky shoulder doesn’t heal and the Colts -- in theory -- struggle, the more it could mean a lost season.

    Ultimately, those who have Luck on their fantasy teams shouldn’t feel fooled today, for the shoulder problem has hardly been handled in a secretive manner, as the organization was probably hoping the franchise player would be ready by September, but it didn’t happen. For now, it’s one week. Then it might be two and four and Happy Halloween, the Indy quarterback is dressed in a Brissett costume! I’ve been cautiously avoiding this situation for months and recommending this course of action to others. If you own Luck, there are likely ample replacements on free agency. Meanwhile, I dealt Hilton away in a keeper league for next to nothing. I even avoided one of my favorite annual flex options, old Frank Gore. The Colts might be a mess for a while, or longer, but you had been warned.

    Meanwhile, colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft discussed the fantasy repercussions from the many cuts and other roster machinations this weekend, so I’ll try to avoid repeating as we wrap the actual final weekend before the regular season starts on Thursday.

    Weekend quarterback news: Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor was just cleared from concussion protocol on Tuesday, which should mean rookie Nathan Peterman won't have to make the Week 1 start. Taylor, thanks to his legs, is more valuable than people realize, but the Bills are rebuilding, so I stopped recommending Taylor weeks ago, because I question Buffalo’s motives here. … Not that anything should happen to Chargers leader Philip Rivers, but it was interesting that the team cut backup Kellen Clemens, leaving athletic Cardale Jones as the No. 2, at least for now.

    Weekend running back news: For those drafting this week, yes, the incompetent handling of the Elliott situation does open the possibility there will be no suspension at all. Or it could be all six games, as once prescribed. Nothing like a little clarity with days to go before the season. Elliott has to be considered a top-10 running back for sure if you’re drafting today. … The Bills cut their presumed No. 2 in Jonathan Williams, leaving much speculation about who backs up LeSean McCoy. It should be noted McCoy doesn’t share much. He missed a game in 2016, and all other Bills running backs totaled 156 rushing attempts. Large Mike Tolbert might get some goal-line looks, but you don’t need to own him or Joe Banyard and Taiwan Jones, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if McCoy is eventually dealt.

    Houston backup Alfred Blue is supposed to miss a few weeks with a sprained ankle, pushing rookie D’Onta Foreman to No. 2 duties. That’s intriguing for sure, since Lamar Miller wasn’t so great last year. … Former Redskins disappointment Matt Jones ended up with the Colts, but it doesn’t matter. He’s not that good. If Gore struggles because defenses can pack it in against Tolzien, then no Colts runner will succeed. And rookie Marlon Mack is still my pick to emerge. … Six weeks ago I was thinking of then-Buccaneers rookie Jeremy McNichols as a deep sleeper, for the team’s situation was relatively wide open, but the fifth-rounder from Boise State didn’t make the team. He ended up with the 49ers, however, on their practice squad. That’s interesting because the team cut Tim Hightower, leaving undrafted rookie Matt Breida and well-traveled Raheem Mostert as the only guys backing up brittle Carlos Hyde. Breida could matter soon, and perhaps McNichols, eventually.

    Weekend wide receiver news: The league did find the time on Friday afternoon to announce Saints starter Willie Snead was suspended for three games, with a deal made to reduce the absence from four games. This immediately sent Ted Ginn Jr.'s stock rising, probably too high. The September winner is probably Brandon Coleman, for he can fill in out of the slot. Don’t be surprised if Coleman is one of the popular free agents being added in September. … The league also officially cleared the Steelers’ Martavis Bryant, a move widely expected all summer, which makes it odd his ADP shot up. … Chargers rookie Mike Williams was, like Luck, removed from the PUP list so he can practice with the team and play before mid-October, but again there’s no guarantee it happens. You want Williams in dynasty formats, but he still might not play much in 2017.

    There were also several trades, as good teams with depth moved disappointing options to lesser passing offenses desperate for aid. The Jets got Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse and the argument can be made he instantly becomes the top weapon for Josh McCown. (Yep, that’s the quarterback.) Anyway, I had Robby Anderson and ArDarius Stewart as top-60 wide receivers, and Kearse pushes Stewart out. Someone will catch passes on this team other than the running backs. It’s a bad team, but bad teams trail and throw a lot. … The Browns shouldn’t be that bad, but despite all the young receivers on the team they acquired Sammie Coates from the Steelers. Coates might have dropped a pass while you read this. He’s not so reliable, but could see plenty of snaps after Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman. Don’t assume rookie DeShone Kizer can’t make this group relevant.
     

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    Best and worst wide receiver matchups for fantasy football Week 1
    Mike Clay
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/4/17

    By utilizing our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week.

    Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 1 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.

    To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet:

    Downloadable cheat sheet PDF

    Because of the size of the chart in the PDF, here is a key to help you get the most out of it each week:

    Rt = Number of routes run by each player during the 2016 season
    LWR/Slot/RWR = Percentage of the player's routes run from left wide receiver, the slot, and right wide receiver, respectively
    T/R = Targets per pass route
    F/R = Fantasy points per pass route
    Green suggests an advantage for the offensive player, while red indicates an advantage for the defender
    An "S" indicates projected shadow coverage

    Advantageous matchups


    Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Lions CB Quandre Diggs

    Darius Slay is a top-end shadow corner, but he lined up in the slot only four percent of the time last year. Detroit actually allowed the second-most fantasy points to slot receivers last season and will again roll with Diggs inside after he fended off former Raider D.J. Hayden for the gig. Fitzgerald lined up inside on 63 percent of his routes in 2017 and should see Diggs on most of those routes in Week 1. Upgrade him to WR1 territory.


    Panthers WRs Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess and Curtis Samuel vs. 49ers CBs Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser and K'Waun Williams

    Get used to seeing the Panthers in this column, as they have the league's easiest CB slate this season. The fun kicks off with a Week 1 matchup against a 49ers secondary with significant question marks. Robinson -- a fourth-round pick last year -- is an intriguing prospect, but his play fell off as the season went on. Reaser and Williams are replacement-level players who could defer playing time to rookie Ahkello Witherspoon. Benjamin (6-foot-5) and Funchess (6-foot-4) also have a major size advantage on the 49ers' top trio. Upgrade the Panthers' passing game across the board.


    Colts WR Donte Moncrief vs. Rams CB Kayvon Webster

    The Rams allowed the most fantasy points to opposing left perimeter wide receivers last season. That's where Moncrief lined up on 46 percent of his routes last season. Chester Rogers (53 percent) and T.Y. Hilton (22 percent) will also see some time at the spot. Webster is new to L.A. after working as a depth corner in Denver the past four years. It's likely he'll be more effective than predecessors E.J. Gaines and Mike Jordan, but targets will be headed toward him often with Trumaine Johnson on the other side of the field. This, of course, assumes Johnson won't shadow Hilton. Johnson was asked to shadow only twice last season (Mike Evans, Brandon Marshall) and rarely visits the slot, so it's unlikely that he'll follow Hilton in Week 1. Hilton has a nice matchup in the slot against Nickell Robey-Coleman, but he may also draw a bit of Lamarcus Joyner as well.


    Rams WR Sammy Watkins vs. Colts CBs Rashaan Melvin and Quincy Wilson

    As cornerback matchups go, Watkins has a very tough schedule this season. That's despite a Week 1 matchup against a weak Colts secondary that will be missing both top corner Vontae Davis and safety Clayton Geathers. With Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp better suited to work inside, Watkins figures to live on the perimeter. It's there that he'll see Melvin and second-round rookie Wilson often on Sunday. Watkins is still learning the Rams' offense, but he's likely ticketed for a quick start considering the light matchup.


    Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry vs. Buccaneers CB Robert McClain

    A byproduct of some off-the-field drama and Jay Cutler's preseason connection with DeVante Parker, Landry's average draft position took a big dive late in August. Those who took the plunge and drafted Landry figure to benefit out of the gate, as Landry is set up with a nice matchup in the slot against the journeyman McClain. Vernon Hargreaves III played some slot last season, but (a) the 2016 first-round pick is expected to stick on the perimeter in 2017; and (b) Hargreaves was lit up early and often as a rookie anyway. With Hargreaves and Brent Grimes on the outside against Parker and Kenny Stills, Landry is positioned to eat against McClain. Upgrade him.


    Vikings WRs Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell and Adam Thielen vs. Saints CBs Marshon Lattimore, Sterling Moore and P.J. Williams

    Delvin Breaux is still hurt and won't play in Week 1. That leaves the rookie Lattimore as the Saints' No. 1 corner and Williams and Moore ticketed for major roles. The Saints allowed the third-most fantasy points to perimeter receivers last season. It's hard to imagine much changing this season, at least until Lattimore proves himself and Breaux returns healthy. Upgrade your Vikings receivers, especially Diggs, who is expected to work outside more often this season.


    Giants WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall vs. Cowboys CBs Nolan Carroll II and Chidobe Awuzie

    Beckham (ankle) is questionable for Week 1, but if he's able to play, make sure he's in your lineup against the Cowboys' new-look and weaker cornerback group. That same advice goes for Marshall, who will work the perimeter opposite Beckham. Sterling Shepard will face off against Orlando Scandrick in the slot, which will be a tougher-than-usual matchup for the second-year receiver.


    Seahawks WRs Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson vs. Packers CBs Davon House, Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall

    The Packers' secondary was absolutely fleeced last season and it's possible it isn't much better in 2017. Second-round pick Kevin King has yet to earn a starting gig and House was the only other offseason addition. House and Randall both allowed 0.53 fantasy points per route last season, which is worst among the 96 projected "starting" corners this weekend (I'm including nickel corners here). Upgrade all three Seattle wideouts and consider Richardson and Lockett DFS tournament targets.

    Tough matchups


    Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman

    Norman shadowed Jeffery -- then with Chicago -- on 35 of his 40 routes (34 of 35 on the perimeter) in Week 16 last season. Jeffery caught four balls for 78 yards on nine targets against Norman and added one additional 14-yard catch against Kendall Fuller. Expect the two to face off again in Week 1, and though Jeffery had some success last year, Norman remains one of the game's better cover corners. It's a tough matchup and he should be downgraded. As a result of this matchup, Bashaud Breeland will be on Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor will face off with Fuller in the slot. Both receivers should be upgraded and are Week 1 sleepers. Smith makes for an intriguing DFS tournament target.


    Saints WR Michael Thomas vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes

    Rhodes emerged as one of the game's better shadow corners last season and he's a strong bet to pick up where he left off in 2017. Last season, Rhodes followed Beckham, Jeffery, DeAndre Hopkins, Golden Tate, Dez Bryant, Allen Robinson and Jordy Nelson. With Brandin Cooks gone, Thomas is the Saints' clear No. 1 wideout and can expect shadow treatment from Rhodes. Minnesota allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to perimeter receivers last season and Thomas lined up outside on 87 percent of his routes. Especially considering the game is in Minnesota, Thomas is a name to fade in DFS. With Rhodes presumably glued to Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr. is a nice Week 1 sleeper against Trae Waynes and/or Tramaine Brock on the other side of the field. Need an intriguing DFS tournament target? Try 6-foot-6 Brandon Coleman with Willie Snead suspended.


    Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Giants CB Janoris Jenkins

    Jenkins shadowed Bryant on 56 of his 84 routes during two games between the teams last season. That included 54 of 58 routes on the perimeter. In those games, Bryant managed two catches for 18 yards and no touchdowns on 14 targets, including one 10-yard catch on nine targets against Jenkins. Bryant has the league's hardest cornerback slate this season and -- if last season is any indication -- he'll open 2017 slowly with Jenkins following him around most of the time. Bryant may dodge Jenkins in the slot, but life won't be much easier against standout slot corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Cole Beasley will also have his hands full against Rodgers-Cromartie throughout the game.


    Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward and Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders vs. Chargers CB Jason Verrett

    It's very possible this is flip-flopped, but considering Hayward's success against Thomas in two games last season, it's fair to assume the Chargers will stick with the same game plan. With Verrett injured, Hayward shadowed Thomas in both of those meetings. Thomas posted a line of 9 targets, 5 catches, 35 yards and no TDs in Week 6 and an 8-5-79-0 line two weeks later. Thomas did get the better of Hayward -- then with the Packers -- on 14 routes during a Week 8 meeting between the two in 2015. In those 14 routes alone, Thomas posted a 7-5-118-0 line. Sanders, who was covered by Steve Williams and Brandon Flowers (both whom are no longer with the team) on most of his routes, was limited to a 15-8-108-0 line during the two games last year. Hayward and Verrett combine to create one of the league's top cornerback duos, so Thomas and Sanders should be downgraded in this matchup.


    Chargers WRs Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin vs Broncos CBs Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby

    Harris and Talib were two of the league's best cornerbacks last season and both are back and healthy in 2017. Williams was limited to seven targets, four catches and 32 yards on 69 routes against Denver last season. Allen hasn't played against the Broncos since 2014 when he posted a 21-12-91-1 line in 56 routes that season. He will especially have his hands full up against Harris in the slot. In fact, Denver's defense has had a big impact on how Philip Rivers has distributed targets over the past three years. Against Denver, 47.2 percent of his throws have gone to wide receivers, 29.4 percent to tight ends and 23.4 percent to running backs. Against all other teams, the marks are 55.8 percent, 23.8 percent and 20.3 percent. The Chargers' wide receivers should be downgraded and plan for more targets for Melvin Gordon, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.


    Lions WR Golden Tate vs. Cardinals CBs Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson

    With Anquan Boldin out and Kenny Golladay in this season, Tate is expected to kick to the slot more often. Though the move will keep him away from Peterson a bit more often, he'll still need to deal with a healthy Mathieu whenever he's lined up inside. It's possible Peterson shadows Tate when he's lined up outside, but this is likely to be one of those rare games where he simply plays his side. In that event, Tate figures to draw Justin Bethel a handful of times, which will be his best opportunity at a big play. Downgrade the Detroit wideouts.


    Bears WR Kevin White vs. Falcons CB Desmond Trufant

    Cameron Meredith is out for the season and Markus Wheaton is expected to miss Week 1 with a hand injury. That leaves White, Kendall Wright (slot) and Josh Bellamy as the Bears' top-three receivers. Trufant shadowed during seven of nine games prior to his season-ending injury last year, so I expect him to follow Chicago's top receiver in Week 1. There are already questions about White's ability following two lost seasons, so especially with the tough matchup in mind, he should be on your bench to kick off the season.


    Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Patriots CB Malcolm Butler and Chiefs WR Chris Conley vs. Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

    I hesitate to move the needle too much here simply because Gilmore adds a new dimension to the Patriots secondary and Hill's obscene speed could cause Bill Belichick to get creative in containing Kansas City's clear top target at wideout. I'm downgrading Hill only slightly and Conley shouldn't be on your radar for a starting spot just yet.

    Other notes

    • Will Ravens CB Jimmy Smith shadow Bengals WR A.J. Green? Doubtful. Consider that Green has lit Smith up for 13 receptions, 194 yards and a touchdown on 17 targets over the past three years.

    • Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has not shadowed against Green Bay the past two years, so Jordy Nelson should be "safe."

    Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey had success against Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins last season (23-10-94-0 line on 50 routes), but it's hard to know if Jacksonville will choose to shadow for two reasons: 1. A.J. Bouye is a very capable corner opposite Ramsey; and 2. With Will Fuller V out, the Texans don't have a clear second option for Bouye to follow around.

    • There was a report floating around that indicated the Browns' Jamar Taylor will shadow the Steelers' Antonio Brown in Week 1. I spoke to two reliable sources who don't expect that to be the case, though. Assuming Taylor doesn't shadow, Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun would cover Brown on the perimeter, with Taylor -- the team's 2016 and projected 2017 slot corner -- handling him inside. Brown lined up in the slot 13 percent of the time last year. It should be all systems go for another big game for Brown.

    • Marcus Peters did not shadow at all last season and New England moves its wide receivers around enough that none of their wideouts need to be downgraded.
     

  9. #34  
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    Analyzing ranks with Elliott, but no Buccaneers, Dolphins
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/6/17

    What a weird Week 1 of the 2017 fantasy football season this is going to be. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is actually going to be in the lineup but everyone on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins will not be. Yep, just the way it was all planned.

    The first in-season ESPN Fantasy rankings are published and there are some strange sights to be sure. Each Wednesday in this space I’ll do my best to chronicle the bigger themes. For this week, it appears Elliott will be in action against the Giants on Sunday night and that’s certainly a good thing for those investing in him. It doesn’t mean he’ll be ranked at all the following week, or until the end of October, but we’ll let the lawyers figure that out. Elliott is an excellent play this week.

    As for the two Florida football teams impacted by the approaching Hurricane Irma, their game will be played in Week 11, which is when the Bucs and Dolphins were scheduled for a bye week. The big story here is there is a devastating storm on the way and many, many people will be unfortunately inconvenienced and harmed. Your fantasy team will be fine. You might be disappointed that your first-round pick, Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans, isn’t playing this week, but I’m guessing you’d have better perspective if you lived in southern Florida, or in Houston for that matter.


    Due to Hurricane Irma, Mike Evans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their one and only bye week in Week 1. David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
    Still, as we gently refocus back to the relative insignificance of the fantasy world, it is odd that several key players will not suit up in Week 1 and this situation has elicited many reactions. While there’s never a good time for a devastating storm, one could argue that for fantasy purposes it has the least impact in Week 1, when just about everyone except Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is healthy and ready for action, and no other teams are on their bye week. Fantasy owners might need to cut that fifth running back or backup defense to replace Evans, Jay Ajayi or others for a week, but it’s really not a big deal.

    Others will try to justify trading the top options on these teams -- or avoiding them in drafts this week -- because the Bucs and Dolphins will end up playing 16 consecutive weeks, which is obviously not ideal by any physical measure. Sorry, but I can’t get on board with the logic. In fact, as an Evans owner who was perhaps 2 percent thinking ahead to all my players on a pending Week 11 bye, I don’t mind it. But let’s worry about November football in November. Most of my teams do not boast reserve quarterbacks at this point because byes don’t start until October. So many things will change. This is overthinking.

    While those relying on Jameis Winston, Jay Cutler (can’t imagine it’s that many people), Ajayi, the Tampa Bay running backs (again, you’re that disappointed you can’t use Jacquizz Rodgers this week?), Evans, DeSean Jackson, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and perhaps others have to make some minor arrangements, this is why you load up on flex options. You might not have thought you’d need them in Week 1, but you might. The Winston owners can find a quarterback on free agency quite easily; Carson Palmer, Carson Wentz, Carson … um, Tyrod Taylor and even Sam Bradford are readily available and boast solid matchups this week. And then Winston returns in Week 2!

    One other thing, and again, it’s not a big deal, but those investing in Buccaneers running back Doug Martin and the three-game suspension he needs to serve -- lawyers aren’t involved anymore, I believe -- won’t get to see him eligible to play until Week 5. He misses the Week 4 game against the Giants, a pretty good run defense, and can play in Week 5 against the mighty Patriots, and that game is scheduled for a Thursday night. (I always say scheduled because one never really knows for sure.) Martin’s ownership figures might drop a bit because fantasy owners are famously impatient, but I’d say Martin is a better option now. He debuts on a Thursday without having to play four days earlier. He might be the lone fresh player out there. And yeah, we’ll worry about Week 11 in mid-November.

    Week 1 quarterback ranking thoughts: No major surprises it appears, but I did rank Steelers option Ben Roethlisberger considerably worse than my colleagues. Don’t forget the woeful road numbers for this veteran, and that includes in Cleveland. Roethlisberger has 14 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in road games the past two seasons. Last year in Cleveland -- and the Browns were awful -- he threw for 167 yards and nary a touchdown. … I don’t mind admitting I like the 49ers passing game this week at home against Carolina. Brian Hoyer is a competent quarterback. … Philip Rivers has actually performed fine at mighty Denver in recent seasons. He gets picked off, but the yards and scores are there.

    Week 1 running back ranking thoughts: Remember we have separate rankings for PPR formats and non-PPR formats this season! … While I like the 49ers to score against the Panthers, I’m all-in for Carolina rookie Christian McCaffrey. While other rookies might have to prove themselves in games that count to gain playing time, as the Chiefs and Bengals notably could have time-shares, McCaffrey should get plenty of touches. … Seattle is going to be really tough to run on, so this might be the worst week to use Ty Montgomery. So what if you drafted him “to be a starter.” What does that mean? How you acquired players doesn’t matter now. Play the best ones and matchups are important. … Pretty strong rankings, from most of us, on Baltimore’s Terrance West. He was a late-round pick in most leagues but opportunity is there, even with Danny Woodhead healthy. And Woodhead might not be so healthy.

    One thing on Elliott, and perhaps I am overthinking: The Giants can handle the run. Elliott ran 20 times for 51 yards in the home game against the Giants last year. He was better in the rematch. Of course all Elliott owners will activate him but don’t assume there’s extra motivation because of the looming suspension or the ridiculous way it has been handled will mean a notably monster game. I don’t view him as a particularly good DFS play. Also, don’t use backup Darren McFadden this week, but definitely keep him owned. He was going to be my No. 10 running back until word came Elliott would play.

    Week 1 wide receiver ranking thoughts: It generally takes a few weeks for there to be surprise rankings at this position, but definitely check out the work of colleague Mike Clay as he reveals the best and worst wide receiver matchups. This is must-reading but doesn’t mean Kelvin Benjamin is a WR1 or Dez Bryant should be forgotten. But Bryant did miss my top 20. Apparently nobody else is concerned. … Can’t speak for others, but I ranked new Ram Sammy Watkins well this week because he’s not hurt yet. It might seem to make little sense based on my season ranks, but that’s the point. This is one week and it’s a good matchup. … Same deal with Keenan Allen. He’s healthy today and by the way, has played twice in the thin air of Denver and against that defense and has three touchdowns.
     

  10. #35  
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    Week 1 fantasy football flex rankings: Matchups matter
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/7/17

    Welcome to the 2017 fantasy football season and the return of the top-100 (plus) flex rankings! I’m Eric, and I’ll be your host in this forum yet again, as we combine the best of the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends into one tidy, reasonable package to aid those of you with some tough flex decisions -- and even easy ones.

    Scoring is point-per-reception, and day of publication is every Thursday (a day earlier Thanksgiving week), so make sure you pay attention to the news every Friday, because injury updates could absolutely adjust things. And, hey, have fun! This is a game. Enjoy it. And no matter how the players are ranked below, trust your gut and make your own decisions.

    1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: I flipped the order for the top guys in season rankings, but this isn’t about the season. It’s about Sunday. Bell gets the slight nod.

    2. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals: I always get a kick out of people whining that Bell and Johnson shouldn’t be in these rankings since they’re the best players, as if it’s for a two-team league. OK, so where should we start? At the twentieth best player? Gotta start somewhere, so we include them all.

    3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: When a coach tells the world he might never take his starter out because he doesn’t like the other options, we listen. And McCoy finished last season as the No. 7 scorer among flex-eligible players, despite missing two games. (I’m counting Week 17.)

    4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: Here today, gone tomorrow, and for the next six games. Great job. But he should be good this Sunday.

    5. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: We know his quarterback doesn’t produce big numbers on the road, but Brown does quite well. No worries here.

    6. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams: I’ve been at ESPN a long time, and I feel like I’ve been recommending running backs against the Colts for all of it.

    7. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants: We should point out it’s possible that he’s not healthy enough to play, but I’m guessing he’ll play anyway.

    8. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons: Super Bowl jinx! And I ranked him eighth anyway. No jinx.

    9. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

    10. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

    11. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers: Totaled 155 yards in last season’s meeting at Denver, so no, to answer your question, I’m actually not worried about the matchup.

    12. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans

    13. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers: Tops among the rookies for this week, and probably a lot more. And by the way, that might hold even in non-PPR formats. I think he gets plenty of touches and gets into the end zone too.

    14. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

    15. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: Seattle at Green Bay should be fun, but in terms of rankings, it should be more fun for Baldwin than Nelson. In fact, Nelson might be ranked generously.

    16. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Led the league in catches last year. Doesn’t sound like he’s done to me.

    17. Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots: No reason to worry about him getting enough targets, especially after the Julian Edelman injury.

    18. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: Not a pass catcher, but a really good player.

    19. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

    20. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: Both Raiders options rank well, but yeah, and perhaps it’s to prove a point. It’s OK to like Crabtree more. He did outscore the other guy last year and the year prior. And as matchups go for this game, Crabtree probably has it easier as well.

    21. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders: But he’s really good too.

    22. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: One of the tougher matchups for him this season, if not the toughest, so don’t be upset with only six or seven fantasy points.

    23. Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins

    24. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

    25. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: I could write this about 30 more times the rest of this blog entry, but “he is healthy today” and that’s all that matters. We’ll deal with future weeks when they arrive!

    26. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars: Some would like to presume he’ll struggle because quarterback Blake Bortles is bad, but I’m not there yet.

    27. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings

    28. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns

    29. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: Yes, I do think Tom Savage is capable of making him relevant again. Very relevant.

    30. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets: Might not be rushing for 100 yards per game, but with the receptions he’s going to be valuable.

    31. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings: He’s playing the Saints. At home. Batter up!

    32. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

    33. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos: Doesn’t seem trusted by many, so this will be interesting.

    34. Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: He has achieved nothing but is already so trusted. And it will be interesting.

    35. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

    36. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos: Thomas is dealing with a groin injury, but even if he was healthy, these two are pretty even. San Diego will ... excuse me, the L.A. Chargers have excellent cornerbacks.

    37. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

    38. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

    39. Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams: Over/under on games played at 12.5? That seem fair? He’s healthy today.

    40. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: You don’t want to trust Scott Tolzien, but Hilton won’t get charged with his interceptions. Don’t drop Hilton too far in your rankings waiting for Andrew Luck to return.

    41. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders

    42. Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers: I actually do believe Brian Hoyer can be a competent quarterback, and Garcon has clearly shown he can be good.

    43. Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens

    44. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

    45. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: Pick a Lion, any Lion. I generally pick the one who catches the passes.

    46. Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants

    47. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles: Josh Norman knows Alshon. And Alshon knows Josh. Don’t expect Jeffery to have a big game.

    48. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: Janoris Jenkins knows Dez. And Dez ... you get it. Tough matchup again. Bryant caught two passes against the Giants last season. Two. On 14 targets.

    49. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

    50. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

    51. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

    52. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins: I think the smart move is to hope he has a big September and then trade him. You’re not likely getting 16 games here.

    53. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

    54. Terrance West, RB, Ravens: Seems a bit underrated to me.

    55. Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots: The problem is nobody has a clue what New England is doing with their running backs.

    56. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: I feel like this ranking should either be 30 spots better or 30 spots worse. Mixon really should be their guy right now.

    57. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs: The question is whether he’ll get enough targets, because the touchdown percentage will be mighty hard to repeat.

    58. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins

    59. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings: Again, it’s a home game with the Saints. Even Sam Bradford can’t help but do something with that matchup.

    60. Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers

    61. Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins

    62. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers

    63. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens

    64. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars: Bortles can’t be this bad again, right? And by the way, Bortles was a top-10 fantasy QB the past two years. He just couldn’t find Robinson downfield last year. Maybe it changes.

    65. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

    66. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

    67. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Eagles: Seems obvious his touches could be divided in half from last year, and that will take the touchdowns down as well.

    68. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers

    69. Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints: Of course he opens in Minnesota. Of course! Just don’t see how this can be a great statistical game, but he’s shocked us before.

    70. Frank Gore, RB, Colts

    71. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

    72. Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers: Still dealing with a groin injury, and the matchup isn’t so easy.

    73. Eric Decker, WR, Titans

    74. Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: Now begins the group of pass-catching running backs. Coleman was mostly worth flex status when he played last season.

    75. Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Browns

    76. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles

    77. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles: Everyone’s waiting for the breakout season, but he’s already broken out.

    78. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

    79. Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens: Rarely valued properly, but he actually topped 1,000 receiving yards last year.

    80. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Saints: This doesn’t figure to be the matchup to judge him on, but good times are ahead.

    81. Paul Perkins, RB, Giants: He’s their top guy, but few seem to believe he’s got a good shot at being a top-20 RB anytime soon.

    82. Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. As with the Giants, the offensive line is a problem.

    83. Matt Forte, RB, Jets: Yes, he’s still playing. And he might split the touches with Powell, making him a bit undervalued.

    84. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots

    85. Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: Amendola should have more catches than Hogan, but Hogan should have a better shot at big yards and scores. We think.

    86. Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots: I can’t really make the claim that Burkhead will be this team’s top running back yet, but I have a feeling he’ll get chances and would make sure he’s rostered before the game in a deep league.

    87. James White, RB, Patriots

    88. John Brown, WR, Cardinals

    89. Zay Jones, WR, Bills: Decent chance both Bills receivers that most people know -- even this rookie -- are undervalued this week.

    90. Kenny Britt, WR, Browns

    91. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: Don’t trust the health. Even if he’s healthy heading into the game.

    92. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals: Potential DFS bargain here if the Bengals really don’t trust Mixon yet.

    93. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

    94. Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans: Definite value here. It’s Week 1. No byes. No injuries. This top-100 won’t be as deep any other week.

    95. Jordan Matthews, WR, Bills

    96. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

    97. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks

    98. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks

    99. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts

    100. Corey Coleman, WR, Browns

    Also: Marvin Jones, WR, Lions; Torrey Smith, WR, Eagles; Martellus Bennett, TE, Packers; Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys; Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings; Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles; Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos; Corey Davis, WR, Titans; Kevin White, WR, Bears; D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texans; Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys; Kendall Wright, WR, Bears; Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins; Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants; Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks; Shane Vereen, RB, Giants; Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
     

  11. #36  
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    What to watch: The other rookie running backs

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/7/17

    Eight running backs were chosen in the first three rounds of the most recent NFL draft, and one of them debuted Thursday night with considerably more fanfare than when he was originally drafted. The Kansas City Chiefs rocked the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the first game of the 2017 regular season, and Kareem Hunt, selected No. 86 overall, looked the part of fantastic fantasy asset with his 246 total yards and three touchdowns, and he was able to do that because starter Spencer Ware wrecked his knee and presented the opportunity.

    A year ago, there was merely one rookie running back fantasy owners relied on in Week 1. Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott definitely proved to be worth it, but the only other rookie running back to even make our rankings that opening week was Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Few owned eventual breakouts Jordan Howard or Rob Kelley. This year is obviously different, and that’s one of the bigger fantasy themes of the weekend, as we pay extra-close attention to the first-year running backs who have yet to succeed or fail -- so most of us can, obviously, overreact.

    In each case, there’s enough to believe the rookies we did rank at running back could be awesome and great weekly fantasy options, but it’s also easy to see how things could go awry. Of course, after the historic performance by Hunt, now everyone will expect every rookie to go nuts. I’ll go one by one, if you don’t mind.

    Carolina opens at San Francisco, and we all remember how bad the 49ers were, so we assume Christian McCaffrey totals 100-plus yards with many catches and gets into the end zone. But Jonathan Stewart is, by the way, still there, and he’s competent, and for today, healthy. Oh, and the quarterback likes to call his own number at the goal line. I’m all in on McCaffrey, in PPR and non-PPR, and can see how next week we view this guy as a top-five untouchable option, but also how this ends up in more of a timeshare than anyone today wants to believe.

    Jacksonville opens at Houston against a defense we at ESPN Fantasy have collectively decided is the prime option to own this week. J.J. Watt is great, both on and off the field, by the way. Anyway, Leonard Fournette should have volume, and others should help him catch passes on third downs, but then again, the quarterback situation is such a problem for the Jaguars and likely to change at some point -- perhaps even this week. That could certainly affect how defenses plan to deal with Fournette.

    The Vikings host the Saints, and that should mean big things for Dalvin Cook, who we all call an RB2 option, even though it’s just about the most ideal matchup and few believe Latavius Murray will be sharing snaps. So why didn’t we rank Cook better? I’m asking myself that very question. I certainly want to watch how this plays out, though.

    The Bengals-Ravens games tend to be bruising affairs, and Cincinnati really hasn’t tipped its hand about the running back snaps. Incumbents Jeremy Hill (ankle) and Giovani Bernard (knee) can’t be 100 percent healthy, so it seems odd that Joe Mixon isn’t expected to handle a greater workload. Or perhaps the Bengals just aren’t revealing anything, and the controversial rookie will get all of them. How Belichickian! I think it’s a risk to activate Mixon in fantasy this week, but he has to be owned in all leagues in case he’s "the guy." I’m not going to pretend to know how this one turns out.

    After that, there are three others I haven’t discussed, and again, their roles are problematic. While the Vikings have a touted rookie runner, so do the Saints, though Alvin Kamara might not have much of a role initially. Plus, everyone will be watching Adrian Peterson's return to where he used to roam, and we should watch closely to see how touches are divided between he and Mark Ingram. In Houston, Lamar Miller is relatively safe until he isn’t, so D’Onta Foreman isn’t expected to play much initially, and then there is James Conner in Pittsburgh. He might never see the ball while Le’Veon Bell is healthy, but Cowboy Darren McFadden aside, is there a better handcuff option?

    And that pretty much sums up the key rookie running back situations, though it’s worth pointing out the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 rookie rushers last season after Elliott were not chosen in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Howard was a fifth-rounder in Chicago. Kelley didn’t get drafted by Washington or any team. Denver took Devontae Booker in Round 4. Draft status really doesn’t matter, and no other rookies rushed for 500 yards. That should change this season with several or more of the fellows listed above, and it all starts in Week 1.

    What if Chris Carson (Seahawks), De'Angelo Henderson (Broncos), Matt Breida (49ers), Tarik Cohen (Bears), Justin Davis (Rams) or Marlon Mack (Colts) end up as this year’s surprises? Could happen!

    Three other things I’m watching this weekend

    1. Good wide receivers with questionable quarterbacks: Certainly quite a few T.Y. Hilton owners are so worried about the absence of injured Andrew Luck that they’re thinking about sitting him because Scott Tolzien will be slingin’ the pigskin. My take is a top receiver will still get his numbers, but the brutal DeAndre Hopkins situation last season adjusted conventional thinking on that, and it was similar with Allen Robinson in Jacksonville. It used to be rare. So let’s watch Hopkins with Tom Savage and whether Blake Bortles steps up with his job on the line too. I think Rams sophomore Jared Goff has to be better now that he’s got Sammy Watkins to throw to. And will any Jets options matter? Good question!

    2. Road woes: Many people seem to be expecting the Steelers to score at will in Cleveland, but I just can’t gloss over the brutal road statistics for Ben Roethlisberger -- not just last year, but for three years running. Last year at Cleveland, he threw for a mere 167 passing yards with no scores. In addition, Drew Brees certainly hasn’t been close to as productive away from New Orleans. This game is in Minnesota, the first of a pair of Monday Night Football games with Chargers-Broncos to follow. Everyone will be eagerly watching as Peterson returns to friendly Viking land, but the Brees performance and whether he can turn veteran Ted Ginn Jr. into a legit replacement for Brandin Cooks is interesting as well.

    3. Stay safe, Florida: Real life is going to eclipse fantasy every time, so hopefully this weekend’s storm weakens and Hurricane Irma fails to leave utter devastation in its wake. It’s kind of meaningless that a pro football game had to be postponed until November, and your fantasy team will be fine. Regardless, fantasy owners who weren’t prepared for their Buccaneers and Dolphins to be sitting out this weekend are going to do some unwise things with their rosters, cutting players they shouldn’t to fill a lineup.

    We know fantasy owners overreact, but I recommend smart fantasy owners take a look at free agency in their leagues prior to Sunday, when rosters lock, to see if there are bargains out there that shouldn’t be, like rookie running backs or strong handcuffs or even, for those who believe, Luck. Always look to strengthen your bench and don’t worry about planning for those Week 11 byes yet, whether you drafted a few days ago or four weeks ago. Dump that second defense for Carson. One of those assets could be among the most added Week 2 options, and it’s sure not the defense.
     

  12. #37  
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    Which veteran RBs could join 1,000-yard club?
    Eric Karabell
    9/12/17


    Rushing for 1,000 yards in an NFL season might seem like no big deal -- long-time veterans Frank Gore and LeGarrette Blount were among those to achieve the mark last season -- but itís recently become tough for veteran players to join the club for the first time. Of the 12 running backs who crossed the 1,000-yard threshold last season, seven had done it previously (including Gore and Blount). Two more (Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard) passed the mark as rookies in 2016 and two others (David Johnson, Jay Ajayi) were in Year 2 in 2016. That left Saints veteran Mark Ingram as the only longtime vet to achieve the mark for the first time -- the 2011 first-round pick finally broke through in his sixth season.

    We saw the same trend in previous seasons. In 2015, sixth-year RB Chris Ivory, then of the New York Jets, managed to stay healthy long enough to rush for 1,070 yards, good for fifth in the NFL. In 2014, Justin Forsett was the surprise veteran to break through for the first time (at age 29), and Lamar Miller also accomplished the feat that year, in his third season.

    This history got me wondering whether there was any room for current veteran running backs -- third season or beyond -- to really emerge in 2017.
    Iím looking squarely at Baltimoreís Terrance West as the rare player to have been in the league for more than two years but still waiting for something -- opportunity, health, luck, perhaps even the development of his skills -- to turn him into a 1,000-yard rusher. West was a third-round pick in the 2014 draft by the Browns out of Towson, and expectations werenít initially great. He wasnít special in his one year in Cleveland, nor did he distinguish himself the next season in Tennessee. But now, in his second year as a Raven, things seem to be aligning nicely for West.

    After all, pass-catching star Danny Woodhead left Sundayís game early after re-aggravating a hamstring injury and letís presume there will be some missed time on that one. Kenneth Dixon isnít playing this season at all. Baltimoreís quarterback, Joe Flacco, is dealing with a painful back injury and comes off a season in which he registered career-highs -- and by a lot -- in completions, attempts and yards for a team that missed the playoffs. The Ravens donít want a repeat of that theme. They want to run the football, control clock and rely on their defense, which pitched a shutout in Cincinnati Sunday.

    Enter West, who got off to a nice start Sunday with 80 yards on 19 totes and seems like an obvious choice to threaten for 1,000 rushing yards. Heíll get the football as long as he performs capably, breaks the occasional big play, converts the short-yardage plays and avoids putting the ball on the ground. West is a sturdy 225 pounds, and while neither particularly fast nor elusive, he can break tackles with his straight-ahead, one-cut style. Next up, his old mates, the Browns!

    West is also potentially useful in the passing game should Woodhead miss considerable time. He caught only 34 passes last season, but 21 of them came in the final six games, with three or more in each contest. Nobody is saying he is an emerging star or someone to target in dynasty formats --- heís owned in all leagues -- but he could be due for a Gore- or Ivory-like season, at least statistically. Gore rushed for 1,025 yards and caught 38 passes last season, and ended up 12th in ESPN scoring among running backs. He was consistent, if not spectacular. Ivory wasnít and isnít a fantasy star in 2015 -- there are a lot more than mere rushing yards that go into making for a special fantasy option -- but he was valuable nonetheless and finished that year as a RB1.

    Now, at age 26 and in his fourth NFL season, that could be West.

    Below are some other running backs who could fit into this particular designation, as backs who are aren't rookies or second-year players, aren't necessarily clear-cut RB2s, and haven't already rushed for 1,000 yards in a season but could be poised to break through. Letís go in order of one manís opinion on the likelihood of hitting quadruple-digits:

    Melvin Gordon, Chargers: Not exactly a similar case to West or Ingram, but it's his third season and he fell three yards shy of 1,000 in 2016. Started the season with an 18-carry, 54-yard performance against the Broncos Monday night.

    Carlos Hyde, 49ers: Itís his fourth season and as with Gordon, he would have made it to 1,000 yards last year with better health. Hyde and Gordon each missed three games. Hyde averaged five yards per rush Sunday, but only got nine carries. Heíll need a lot more, and should get it.

    Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Iím looking for players not necessarily in fantasy starting lineups, and Crowell is borderline after rushing for 33 yards on 17 carries Sunday. Still, itís his fourth year and he came within 48 yards last season. He is generally regarded as a RB2, though some owners might cut him this week. If he gets dropped, scoop him up. He has 1,000 more yards in him.

    Ty Montgomery, Packers: Averaged 2.8 yards per carry in Sundayís win over Seattle and its tough defense, and I worry the Packers will want to keep Montgomery fresh and invite more touches for rookie Jamaal Williams. We shall see.

    C.J. Anderson, Broncos: Itís Year 5 for him and perhaps his final shot to prove himself, since health and performance have been far from sure things. While it wasnít the case late Monday night (Anderson rushed 20 times for 81 yards in a win over the Chargers), this seems like a committee with younger options helping Anderson. Heís had his moments in the past, so perhaps like Jay Ajayi in 2016, Anderson will have several really big games and get to 1,000 on volume.

    Mike Gillislee, Patriots: This might seem outlandish but then again, Blount surpassed 1,000 yards last season -- what if Gillislee's role is precisely like Blountís? I donít think he'll get 299 rush attempts, but heís also younger, quicker and more elusive than Blount.

    Ameer Abdullah, Lions: One Lion in the Matthew Stafford era has reached 1,000 rushing yards, and many will be surprised to learn it was Reggie Bush, with 1,006 yards in 2013. Before that a Lion hadn't done it since Kevin Jones in 2004. I doubt Abdullah, even as the starter and prime two-down rusher, gets there, but one never knows.

    Bilal Powell, Jets: Heíll need a lot more than the seven carries he got in Week 1 (he also had five catches), and this is a really bad team where yards will be hard to come by. Donít worry, Powell's rushing yards will exceed his receiving ones. Well, they should.

    Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: Rawls nearly reached 1,000 yards as a rookie in 2015, but thereís little clarity in Seattleís backfield, and with that offensive line perhaps no Seahawk can succeed. I do think Rawls gets double-digit carries this Sunday -- he has a chance to win the job over Eddie Lacy.

    Kerwynn Williams, Cardinals: Someone has to run the football with David Johnson out, though it seems like it will be a committee approach. Andre Ellington is still here as well, but itís hard to believe with all his injury history heíll be the guy.

    Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers: Someone has to run the football until Doug Martin is off his suspension, and itís certainly plausible that Rodgers, in his seventh year, is that guy for September. Rodgers topped 100 rushing yards in two games last year.

    Tevin Coleman, Falcons: Remember, the Falcons thought so much of Coleman that he was the Week 1 starter in 2015, his rookie season, ahead of Devonta Freeman. If Freeman canít stay healthy, Coleman will get every chance to shine.
     

  13. #38  
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    How to respond to David Johnson, Allen Robinson injuries in fantasy
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/11/17


    It was bad enough for fantasy players that Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, the first pick in most ESPN live drafts, scored a mere 13.1 points in PPR formats at Detroit on Sunday, one of his worst statistical performances since becoming the team’s starter during the 2015 campaign. Then the news got worse. Johnson left prematurely after hurting his wrist after a third-quarter reception and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported it could cost the 25-year-old star several weeks or perhaps even half the regular season or more.

    This is a big deal for the Cardinals, who enjoyed more than 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns from fantasy’s top performer last season. They will now likely turn to the diminutive Kerwynn Williams, who turned his six touches into a mere 12 yards Sunday, though he scored on a short touchdown run. Andre Ellington, several years ago a hot fantasy property but long forgotten, could also figure in, but sans Johnson the Cardinals will likely ask more of quarterback Carson Palmer and his receivers, which might not be possible.

    After all, the Cardinals lost their game to the Lions and needed Palmer to throw 48 times, three of them intercepted. Aging Larry Fitzgerald, who led the NFL in receptions a year ago but did quite a bit of his fantasy scoring in the first five weeks, caught six of his 13 targets for 74 yards Sunday and remains a borderline top-20 wide receiver in PPR formats, but the Cardinals really rely on Johnson for a lot of this offense. Fantasy managers will make Williams a top free-agent target this week, but he still won’t come heartily recommended, even for a road tilt against a clearly terrible Colts team.

    Injuries are the great equalizer in fantasy sports and we’ll await more clarity on Johnson’s situation Monday, but even if he misses half the season, you’re not dropping him and it’s not recommended to trade him for pennies on the dollar. It wasn’t too long ago that the reasonable expectation was for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to miss nearly half the regular season with a suspension that might never happen, and that caused him to fall merely to the end of the second round. Even if Johnson misses considerable time, he remains valuable. Don’t panic yet.

    Second down: As for the aforementioned Lions, coming off an impressive 35-23 home win over a favored Cardinals team, Matthew Stafford was the lone quarterback in the 12 Sunday games entering the Giants-Cowboys tilt to score more than 20 fantasy points. Stafford tossed half his four touchdowns to rookie Kenny Golladay, who impressively leaped, dove and made quite the statement after entering play with little to no fantasy value. Golladay scored a pair of touchdowns in the first preseason game but then was quiet the rest of August, becoming forgotten in standard leagues, and wasn’t a sure thing to perform at all Sunday as he dealt with a sprained ankle. But perform he did, catching four of seven targets for 69 yards. Fantasy owners will surely flock to him as a pickup this week but should exercise a bit of caution: After all, with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., Theo Riddick and perhaps Eric Ebron still likely to see more targets, this is likely Golladay’s fantasy ceiling, and he’s a rookie, and they rarely star at this position on a consistent basis right away.

    As for Stafford, you'll miss out if you continue to underestimate him. A top-10 overall fantasy scorer each of the past two seasons, with differing options to throw to, there were 13 quarterbacks selected earlier in ESPN average live drafts and he was active in a mere 44 percent of leagues this week. However, the veteran continues to produce big numbers, and despite another seemingly difficult matchup in Week 2 at the Giants on Monday, he should be regarded as a top-10 quarterback again because the Lions can’t run the football and there’s no indication that will change anytime soon. Ameer Abdullah, healthy today but perhaps not tomorrow, ran 15 times for 30 yards. This is why Stafford made my top-10 quarterbacks for the season.


    Third down: Johnson wasn’t the only top-10 option from ESPN ADP to disappoint fantasy owners. Pittsburgh Steelers star Le'Veon Bell was curiously underused in the close win at Cleveland, earning a mere 10 rushing attempts and catching only three passes, and in each case there were no games last season in which he had fewer of either mark. Perhaps Bell’s August holdout and lack of practice time necessitated the lack of touches, but it’s not like another Steelers player ran the ball often. In this case, injury doesn’t appear to be the culprit and Bell should warrant a top ranking even for a more difficult Week 2 matchup versus the Vikings. Resist the urge to trade Bell for Kareem Hunt, if you can.

    All wasn’t lost for the running back position on Sunday, however, as Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette became the fourth rookie in club history to reach 100 rushing yards in a game, but he wasn’t the highest-scoring first-year player at the position for the day, as Chicago’s Tarik Cohen turned 13 touches (five rushing, eight receiving) into 113 yards and a touchdown, or 25.3 PPR points. Don’t worry if you selected Jordan Howard; your guy scored 15.2 PPR points, thanks to a touchdown, but moving ahead Cohen should be involved as a pass catching option at the least, perhaps as a James White or Duke Johnson Jr. type. Cohen saw 12 targets. By comparison, Howard caught 29 passes all of 2016. Adding Cohen likely makes more sense than adding Golladay.

    Fourth down: While Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown did his normal and excellent thing and the top-10 scorers at wide receiver was a mix of proven veterans and surprises like Golladay and Philly’s Nelson Agholor, injury again accounts for the big story at the position. Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson, a top-five wide receiver for fantasy in 2015 but so disappointing last season as quarterback Blake Bortles failed to keep him relevant, likely tore his ACL on Sunday and will be lost for 2017. Robinson fell from coveted status during last season, but was still a seventh-round choice in ESPN ADP and was active in 31 percent of standard leagues this week, a figure topped by 28 wide receivers. The new Jaguars relied on suffocating defense and the running of Fournette to shock the Texans in their place Sunday, so don’t rush out to acquire Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee or any Jaguars receivers this week. The defense, however, which registered 10 sacks and forced four turnovers, albeit against underwhelming quarterbacks, should be owned in most leagues soon.

    As for other fantasy relevant injuries, the Baltimore Ravens lost running back Danny Woodhead when he reaggravated a hamstring injury, and more clarity on his situation should be coming Monday as well. Woodhead is one of the preeminent pass catching running backs in the sport, having hauled in 106 passes in 2013 and 98 in 2015, but he missed most of the 2014 and 2016 seasons due to knee injuries and so far this one is looking a bit dubious. Don’t cut Woodhead yet, even if he needs to miss a few games, but this only reminds us that Terrance West has been underrated much of the summer. West ran for 80 yards and a touchdown before Javorius Allen was summoned for second-half work in the shutout at Cincinnati. West is capable of full-time work and, if healthy, could push his way into RB2 discussion with added responsibility.
     

  14. #39  
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    Patriots, Saints options set to thrive in Week 2
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/13/17

    The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints enter Sundayís game seeking their first victories and most people would probably admit to being shocked -- shocked! -- if the defending Super Bowl champs were to start 0-2. For fantasy purposes, itís not all that relevant. There will be numbers in this game, and you wonít want to rely on the defenses. The Patriots will certainly move the football, but so will the Saints. Drew Brees threw for 291 yards in Mondayís loss at Minnesota. He should top that against a Patriots secondary that was shredded by the Chiefsí Alex Smith.

    The ESPN Fantasy Week 2 rankings show not only the immense confidence in Bradyís crew being able to produce many points in New Orleans, but Brees and his surrounding talent also fare well, and itís nice to see a bit of rankings clarity for each team at running back. For example, heading into Week 1 the great Adrian Peterson was regarded by our rankers -- my hand is raised -- as a reasonable flex option. In hindsight, it was ridiculous to believe Saints coach Sean Payton would acquiesce to Peterson returning ďhomeĒ to Minnesota and favor him for touches or anything near the goal line. He barely played. Mark Ingram is the running back to have and rely on for the Saints, and thatís reflected in our rankings.

    Patriots running back Mike Gillislee didnít have much room to run in the surprising home loss to the Chiefs but he was clearly the goal-line option and was able to convert for three short touchdown runs. It really does look like he could achieve what LeGarrette Blount did last season, yards, touchdowns, fantasy value and all. Gillislee moves into this weekís top-20 for PPR and non-PPR purposes for several rankers. No, heís not expected to catch many passes, but touchdowns count for plenty and thus thereís non-PPR love as well. James White also saw a relatively heavy workload and should again this Sunday.

    When it comes to the receivers, Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks are obviously top-10 options and the latter gets there not because itís a ďrevengeĒ game against the team that didnít give him quite the workload he wanted and then abruptly traded him. Brady to Cooks is a legit top-10 combination, just like Brees to Thomas. Danny Amendola, meanwhile, was far more involved in the New England game plan than Chris Hogan, as somewhat expected, and Iím surprised our rankings donít reflect that. Mine do. Ted Ginn Jr. should have an easier time this week as well and should be ranked similar to how Tampa Bayís DeSean Jackson is, for they are similar home run hitter-type players.

    As mentioned earlier, this is not the week to use the Patriotsí D/ST. Brees is far more likely to turn the ball over in road games, and the scoreboard could light up on both sides for this one. Nobody would use the Saints D/ST, perhaps ever. But make no mistake, streaming defenses is a valid strategy; I lost two matchups in Week 1 thanks mainly to my opponent adding the Rams D/ST. It scored 29 points. I have to say, Iíd be interested in going with the Rams again this week at home to Washington. Be careful if you drafted the Denver, Green Bay and Atlanta defenses. They might not fare so well this week.

    Week 2 quarterback ranking thoughts: Donít try to figure out if the Tampa and Miami offenses will be better or worse because they already had their bye weeks. Some believe theyíll be extra fresh, others rusty. Jameis Winston at home against the Bears is a great play either way, a top-10 play. Miamiís Jay Cutler at the Chargers feels like multiple interceptions. Ö I thought about the risk in giving Cam Newton a high rank because he might not need to do much again, just like Week 1 at San Francisco. He plays Buffalo. Letís assume he gets better numbers but not necessarily on the ground. Ö Letís assume Alex Smith does not light up the Eagles for 368 yards and four scores. The Chiefs havenít drastically altered the game plan from recent seasons, and heís not suddenly a top-10 fantasy option. Thatís reflected in his tepid Week 2 ranking.

    Ben Roethlisberger is home this week, but curiously, his ranking is actually worse than Week 1 when it was a road game! The Vikingsí secondary is strong. Perhaps Roethlisberger just isnít a top-10 QB anymore, regardless of venue. Ö Rough ranking for Dak Prescott, but itís warranted in Denver. I donít expect another top-10 season from him. Ö Why are expectations so high for Houston rookie Deshaun Watson? Yes, Tom Savage looked slow and awful, but Watson, far more athletic, turned the ball over twice and didnít exactly have good numbers. They were just better than Savage's. Donít fall for this and trust the rookie on Thursday even against the Bengals. The Bengals arenít so bad. It was one game.

    Week 2 running back ranking thoughts: I was certainly surprised that in our initial rankings there wasnít more interest in Arizonaís Chris Johnson. No, he wasnít on the team until Tuesday. Yes, he was cut by the Cardinals a few weeks ago. But emphatically yes he might lead their running back depth chart. Iíve got him in my top 30 and assume he suits up this week against the brutal Colts. Ö Tough matchups for top options Ezekiel Elliott and LeíVeon Bell, but I just couldnít move someone like Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley or Devonta Freeman to No. 1. Gordon ran fine on Denverís defense Monday. Ö Marshawn Lynch deserves his top-10 ranking because itís a home matchup with the Jets, but he looked good in Week 1, breaking tackles and picking up extra yards. Donít be shy here.



    As for the rookies, Christian McCaffrey didnít have the yards in Game 1 but he sure got the touches, and I think thatís really telling. Keep relying on him. Iíve got him top-10 again, and over Week 1 hero Kareem Hunt, though heís top-10 as well. And what Leonard Fournette achieved in his first game can be repeated 10 more times this season. Ö Itís tough to make a case to use Bengals rookie Joe Mixon, but make sure he is picked up in your league before the Thursday game. Mixon will be the guy, but it might take them losing three of four in September to make that happen. Ö And just because you add Tarik Cohen, Javorius Allen or Kerwynn Williams this week doesnít mean they need to be initially active. Theyíre depth additions.

    Week 2 wide receiver ranking thoughts: I have nothing against Dallas star Dez Bryant, but this is another difficult matchup and he doesnít make my WR2 section. Colleague Mike Clay warned of Bryantís schedule back in August. Ö Thereís much focus on how the Colts are a mess at quarterback, but they were awful defensively as well. The coach wasnít even sure which team they had played. Larry Fitzgerald is the guy Iíd start DFS lineups with and heís in my top-10 for PPR and non-PPR again this week. Nobody ranked John Brown great, because we still donít see many targets for him. Ö I whiffed so far on the 49ersí Brian Hoyer looking competent, but still regard Pierre Garcon as a WR3 even at Seattle. Ö My only concerns with Keenan Allen were about staying healthy. Today heís healthy, so heís a top-20 receiver for me each week, almost regardless of matchup. Iím a bit surprised others donít agree. Ö I might have been wrong in expecting Terrelle Pryor Sr. to produce considerably better numbers in Washington. He looked shaky Sunday. I rank him 20th at the Rams but donít feel great about it.
     

  15. #40  
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    Best and worst wide receiver matchups for fantasy football Week 2
    Mike Clay
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/13/17

    By utilizing our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback line up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week.

    Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 2 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.


    To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet:

    Downloadable cheat sheet PDF

    Because of the size of the chart in the PDF, here is a key to help you get the most out of it each week:

    Rt = Number of routes run by each player during the 2016 season
    LWR/Slot/RWR = Percentage of the player's routes run from left wide receiver, the slot, and right wide receiver, respectively
    T/R = Targets per pass route
    F/R = Fantasy points per pass route
    Green suggests an advantage for the offensive player, while red indicates an advantage for the defender
    An "S" indicates projected shadow coverage

    Advantageous matchups


    Chiefs Tyreek Hill vs. Eagles Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson

    Hill had a huge Week 1 performance that included a 75-yard touchdown catch and it's fair expect a repeat performance this week against Philadelphia. Hill lines up all over the field and, to be frank, it won't matter who is up against him in coverage. Mills was picked on throughout his rookie campaign and it continued in Week 1 against Washington. The second-year corner was targeted a league-high 15 times and allowed 10 receptions for 114 yards. Patrick Robinson, Jaylen Watkins and Malcolm Jenkins will also be in the mix with Ronald Darby sidelined. Give Hill a big boost in your outlook for Week 2.


    Falcons Julio Jones vs. Packers Damarious Randall and Davon House

    In two games against the Packers last season, Jones caught 12 of 17 targets for 209 yards and two touchdowns over 63 pass routes. A majority of that production came against Ladarius Gunter, who was coincidentally waived on Tuesday, but life shouldn't be much tougher for Jones against Randall and House. Randall was targeted seven of the 11 times he was covering Paul Richardson and allowed four catches for 59 yards on Sunday. House was only targeted once on 25 routes in the game. Slot man Quinten Rollins allowed four catches on four targets for 64 yards, though Jones only lined up inside on 10 percent of his routes in Week 1. Jones has the looks of a DFS star in Week 2.


    Broncos Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas vs. Cowboys Nolan Carroll II and Chidobe Awuzie

    Sanders and Thomas had their hands full with the Chargers' top two corners in Week 1, but the duo that handled 52 percent of the team's targets last season is primed for a high volume and likely highly productive Week 2. The two will run most of their routes on the perimeter against Carroll and Awuzie. Dallas' top-two corners had success against Roger Lewis and Brandon Marshall, respectively, in Week 1, but they're unlikely to be as effective against the superior Sanders and Thomas this weekend. Orlando Scandrick is nursing a hand injury and is expected to sit out.


    Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson vs. Colts T.J. Green, Rashaan Melvin and Nate Hairston

    The loss of David Johnson for the next two to three months is obviously bad news for the Cardinals' offense, but it should result in larger target shares for the team's wide receivers. The boost in targets comes at a good time as the group is set to face off with one of the league's worst cornerback groups. Fitzgerald will primarily see Hairston in the slot, with the two Browns and Nelson running routes against Melvin and Green. Green allowed four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown on five targets and Melvin surrendered six catches for 66 yards on seven targets in Week 1. Obviously, this is a big boost for all receivers in Arizona.


    Patriots Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola vs. Saints P.J. Williams and De'Vante Harris

    Amendola is questionable (concussion), but he'll operate as the heavily-targeted slot man against New Orleans if available. If he's out, Hogan -- who lined up inside on 65 percent of his routes in Week 1 -- will work inside against Williams. Harris is the team's top corner opposite rookie Marshon Lattimore, who played fairly well in his NFL debut and even traveled to shadow Stefon Diggs on four plays. Like Sam Bradford, Tom Brady figures to avoid Lattimore and go after Williams and Harris. Brandin Cooks lined up wide to Brady's left 61 percent of the time last week, which is where Lattimore aligned on 84 percent of the pass plays he was on the field for. Williams allowed 100 receiving yards (fifth-most in the league) on eight targets and Harris surrendered 98 yards (seventh-most) on eight targets in Week 1.

    Tough matchups


    Colts T.Y. Hilton vs. Cardinals Patrick Peterson

    There were only a few shadow situations in Week 1, but Peterson latching onto Marvin Jones Jr. was one of them. While Kenny Golladay was busy giving Justin Bethel the business on the other side of the field, Jones was targeted on only two of his 42 routes. Peterson rarely travels to the slot (he didn't at all last week), so Hilton will get some occasional relief from the All-Pro corner. He'll see Tyrann Mathieu in those spots, which may not seem much easier, but Mathieu was torched for eight targets, eight receptions and 75 yards on 25 routes against Golden Tate in Week 1. If Peterson is glued to Hilton, Donte Moncrief will benefit from facing Bethel. The starter opposite Peterson was torched for a league-high 117 yards and two touchdowns against Detroit. If Chester Rogers returns from injury, that would likely mean more Hilton in the slot, which would lighten his load a bit. The Colts offense is a mess without Andrew Luck, so be careful navigating these matchups.


    Dolphins DeVante Parker vs. Chargers Casey Hayward and Dolphins Kenny Stills vs. Chargers Jason Verrett

    Last week, Hayward shadowed 6-foot-3 Demaryius Thomas and Verrett shadowed 5-foot-11 Emmanuel Sanders. This week, some simple dot-connecting suggests Hayward will follow 6-foot-3 Parker and Verrett will chase 6-foot Kenny Stills. It's very possible I have this backward or these guys simply play their sides, but the fact remains: Parker and Stills will have a steep challenge ahead of them facing this dynamic cornerback duo. Hayward allowed seven targets, five receptions and 81 yards on 24 routes against Thomas and Sanders in Week 1. Verrett was better, limiting Sanders to four targets, two catches and six yards on 20 routes. Neither player travels to the slot much, so this matchup obviously sets up well for Jarvis Landry inside. Expect him to feast on Trevor Williams.


    Cowboys Cole Beasley vs. Broncos Chris Harris Jr.

    Beasley is the Cowboys' primary slot man and lined up inside on 87 percent of his routes in Week 1. The Broncos almost never shadow, so Beasley can expect to see the league's best slot corner Harris on at least 90 percent of his routes this week. Keenan Allen managed only one catch on three targets for five yards on 16 routes against Harris on Monday night. Beasley shouldn't be close to your lineup in this one. Dez Bryant, meanwhile, will see some of Harris and Aqib Talib, but will also run a chunk of his routes against Bradley Roby. It's a spot where he can take advantage after Roby allowed four catches for 69 yards and one touchdown on eight targets against the Chargers.


    Lions Golden Tate vs. Giants Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

    Tate was on this list last week and defied the odds by lighting up Mathieu to the tune of eight receptions on eight targets for 75 yards over 25 routes. He also caught two passes for 32 yards against Bethel. That said, life should be a bit tougher this week against Rodgers-Cromartie, who limited aforementioned Beasley to two catches for 25 yards on 19 routes in Week 1. When these teams met last year, the Giants were not shadowing early in the game, but seemed to change their plan once Janoris Jenkins went down with an injury early on. It's possible Jenkins shadows follows Jones, which would open the door for Golladay to see additional work against Eli Apple, who finished last season slowly and was picked on in Week 1.


    Giants Odell Beckham Jr. (or Brandon Marshall) vs. Lions Darius Slay

    When these teams met last season, Slay shadowed Beckham on eight of nine pass plays prior to leaving with an injury. On those eight plays, Slay allowed Beckham to catch both of his targets for 27 yards. Slay didn't shadow in Week 1, but that was expected since Arizona's top wide receiver (Fitzgerald) usually aligns in the slot. Slay rarely moved inside when shadowing Hilton, Jordy Nelson, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt, Allen Robinson and Michael Thomas on the perimeter last year. If Beckham (questionable) misses the game, Slay is a good bet to chase Marshall around the field. In that case, Marshall would be worth downgrading against one of the league's top cover corners.


    Titans Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews vs. Jaguars A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey

    Ramsey moved around and shadowed top receivers throughout his rookie year, but he was not asked to do that against Houston in Week 1. The likely reason for that is the presence of Bouye opposite him in the formation. Bouye was targeted 11 times in Week 1, but allowed only five catches for 40 yards. Ramsey allowed four catches for 27 yards on eight targets. The dynamic duo rarely moves to the slot, which means Davis (12 percent slot in Week 1) and Matthews (21 percent) will see them most often this week. That obviously means both should be downgraded. Eric Decker, meanwhile, lined up in the slot on 76 percent of his Week 1 routes. Aaron Colvin is a solid slot corner, but Decker and Delanie Walker should be peppered with targets considering the tough perimeter matchups.

    Other notes

    It's very possible the Falcons' Desmond Trufant shadows Jordy Nelson this week, but last season's two meetings between the teams suggests they won't. Of course, there were odd circumstances for both of those games. In Week 8, Nelson and Davante Adams played quite a bit in the slot since Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery were both out. In the NFC Championship, Trufant was out.

    Josh Norman did not shadow Alshon Jeffery in Week 1, but did shadow Jeffery, Bryant, Beckham, Jones, Fitzgerald, Terrelle Pryor Sr., A.J. Green, and Kelvin Benjamin last season. That said, it's hard to know if he'll travel with Sammy Watkins this week. Considering how the Rams moved Watkins around so often in Week 1, I wouldn't worry much about shadow coverage. He should see plenty of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland.

    Xavier Rhodes shadowed top wideouts quite often last season, but surprisingly didn't chase Michael Thomas in Week 1. So it's hard to know if he'll follow Antonio Brown in Week 1. Based on how the two were used in Week 1, Brown will still see Rhodes on just under half his routes. Of course, he'll also see plenty of Trae Waynes, Terence Newman and Mackensie Alexander in that scenario, so Brown doesn't need to be downgraded much, if at all.
     

  16. #41  
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    Best NFL DFS matchups for Week 2
    cott Kacsmar, Football Outsiders
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/13/17

    The second week of an NFL season is always about trying to figure out what was real in Week 1. Is Chicago running back Tarik Cohen really a rookie sensation, or did Mike Glennon just fall in love with short passes against an Atlanta defense that conceded 14 catches to James White in the Super Bowl?

    Rookie running backs were all the rage in Week 1, but if you are willing to pay a near-premium for Kareem Hunt this week, do keep in mind that he played only 58 percent of the snaps in New England. Snap counts and touches are always important to note.

    Speaking of New England, the Patriots-Saints matchup is really the key to building your Week 2 lineups in DFS. A ton of points are expected in a game that features two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and two very shaky defenses. The Packers visiting Atlanta is another offensive showdown, but we also have to make sense of Pittsburgh's very talented offense after a slow start in Cleveland, and whether Sam Bradford is leading a strong Minnesota offense this year.

    You can count on more touchdowns this week after the slow start the league got off to in Week 1. However, it would be for the best to fade any contests with the Thursday night game. Even in seasons where they didn't look terrible, the Bengals and Texans played very low-scoring games.

    Here are the best and worst fantasy matchups for Week 2:

    (Note: References to defensive rankings are based on Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, explained here).


    Quarterbacks

    Midtier lock of the week: Jameis Winston vs. Chicago Bears


    Winston makes his 2017 debut with a favorable home matchup with the Bears. Winston had eight games in 2016 with at least 220 passing yards and multiple touchdowns, and he is poised to do even bigger things in his third year with the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. There are better premium options this week for cash games, but in a tournament, I would not hesitate to stack Winston with No. 1 target Mike Evans. Don't let the 23-17 final with Atlanta fool you last week. The Bears still gave up more than 45 yards per drive to Matt Ryan's Falcons.

    Take a walk on the wild side: Trevor Siemian vs. Dallas Cowboys

    Sure, most people are going to pick Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, or Ryan this week. But for the daring, why not take their best skill players and pair them with a bargain like Siemian? He accounted for three total touchdowns against the Chargers and mostly looked to be in command of his offense. Denver still doesn't have a great running game, and the Dallas defense is vulnerable to allowing a lot of short completions. This should also be a game that Denver never gets a big lead in, keeping Siemian throwing well into the fourth quarter.

    Fade: Dak Prescott at Denver Broncos

    The Denver defense was not overwhelming against the Chargers on Monday night, but the unit did give up only a single touchdown until some turnovers led to short fields in the fourth quarter. I still trust this defense to play strong at home, and the Cowboys just came off a 19-point effort against a stingy Giants defense. The fantasy numbers were respectable for Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, but I would fade the offense on the road, including Dez Bryant and his tough matchups with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.

    Players To Pick In Week 2
    PLAYER POS TEAM PROJ +/- TOT
    Jameis Winston QB TB 18.4 4.1 22.6
    Trevor Siemian QB DEN 15.2 -1.2 13.9
    Ty Montgomery RB GB 13.8 2.9 16.7
    Marshawn Lynch RB OAK 11.6 2.7 14.3
    Mike Evans WR TB 18.7 2.1 20.8
    Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 15.2 1.5 16.8
    Chris Hogan WR NE 9.7 1.0 10.6
    Jimmy Graham TE SEA 11.0 1.2 12.2
    Running backs

    Premium play: Marshawn Lynch vs. New York Jets

    While the Jets have a strong defensive line, LeSean McCoy still rushed for 110 yards last week. The Raiders have a very good offensive line, and I expect Lynch to impress in his home debut. He already was solid with 76 rushing yards in Week 1, and should find the end zone this week. Like with most game scripts against the Jets this year, the Raiders are going to play with the lead, which means more opportunities for Lynch.

    Matchup play: Ty Montgomery at Atlanta Falcons

    Running backs have been very productive -- both on the ground and as receivers -- against Atlanta since last season. When these teams last met in the regular season, Montgomery was inactive. In the NFC Championship Game, the Packers quickly fell behind 10-0 and really had to abandon the run. Montgomery had only three carries. I expect a much closer offensive shootout where Montgomery can get 15-plus touches, including several receptions. The Bears just piled up points on the Falcons last week with Jordan Howard and Cohen. This is a much better matchup for Montgomery than Seattle.

    Fade: Dalvin Cook at Pittsburgh Steelers

    Cook rushed for 127 yards in his rookie debut. A late 33-yard run to milk the clock really boosted his fantasy night, but he did look impressive, albeit the game was against New Orleans. Pittsburgh's strength is its run defense and the unit caught a big break when Stephon Tuitt avoided a season-ending biceps injury. He could play Sunday. This should be a game where Bradford's best friends are Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen rather than his back and tight end Kyle Rudolph. This is also a game where the Vikings are less likely to play from ahead as often, facing a tough Pittsburgh team with great offensive options on the road.

    Players To Avoid In Week 2
    PLAYER POS TEAM PROJ +/- TOT
    Dak Prescott QB DAL 18.2 0.0 18.2
    Dalvin Cook RB MIN 13.4 -1.4 12.0
    A.J. Green WR CIN 16.5 0.8 17.4
    Dez Bryant WR DAL 13.5 0.0 13.5
    O.J. Howard TE TB 6.0 0.7 6.7


    Wide receivers

    Value of the week: Chris Hogan at New Orleans Saints

    In a game with so many offensive stars, Hogan can be easily forgotten. However, I think he'll bounce back in a huge way from his eight-yard receiving performance in Week 1. Hogan could have an impact in the way that Thielen did out of the slot against New Orleans in Week 1. This is especially true if Danny Amendola is still feeling the effects of his concussion. Hogan would be my value receiver, especially in any tournament this week.

    Pay up for: Larry Fitzgerald at Indianapolis Colts

    Reports of Carson Palmer's demise might be somewhat exaggerated, but Week 1 was bad. Even worse is that the Cardinals lost David Johnson (wrist) for several months. The good news is that Fitzgerald can still play at a high level, and he's getting an Indianapolis defense that just made Jared Goff look elite. The 2017 Colts appear to be good medicine for whatever ails your team, and I would expect Fitzgerald and Palmer to have their way with this defense this week.

    Fade: A.J. Green vs. Houston Texans

    In five games against the Texans, Green has been kept out of the end zone and surpassed 80 yards only one time. The Bengals have scored fewer than 20 points in four of those games. Andy Dalton has always struggled with the Houston defense, and he is coming off one of the worst games of his career in Week 1 (four interceptions in a 20-0 shutout). Dalton will play better, but his limitations hurt Green. There are plenty of better premium options this week.

    Tight ends

    Flip the script: Jimmy Graham vs. San Francisco 49ers

    Graham had a very rough Week 1 in Green Bay with a drop in the fourth quarter, a flag didn't go his way in the end zone, and he showed little interest in blocking. I think the 49ers are coming to Seattle at a perfect time for the passing offense to get on track. Graham had 100 yards and a touchdown at home against the 49ers last year, and that defense is still lacking talent in the secondary. Russell Wilson should have a much better connection with his star tight end this week.

    Fade: O.J. Howard vs. Chicago Bears

    It is a tempting pick when you see that the Bears are 32nd in DVOA against tight ends, but so much of that was the 88-yard touchdown from Austin Hooper. That was not a very repeatable play, but it is the kind of big play that is possible against this secondary. Winston had some incredible big plays against the Bears last year, but I think Howard will have a quiet debut, and we still don't know how much time he'll split with Cameron Brate at tight end. That's why Evans is the safe bet to produce in this offense.

    Elite Players

    Each week we look at some "elite" players with some of the highest salaries at each position. You should always build your roster with at least one of these players, but sometimes there are difficult matchups where the cost efficiency is simply not in your best interest. Seek the cheaper alternatives listed above.

    Top quarterback: Tom Brady at New Orleans Saints

    Projections For Elite QBs In Week 2
    PLAYER TEAM PROJ +/- TOT
    Drew Brees NO 20.2 4.5 24.7
    Tom Brady NE 20.2 4.1 24.3
    Aaron Rodgers GB 22.5 -1.6 20.9
    Matt Ryan ATL 20.6 -1.7 18.9
    Derek Carr OAK 18.5 0.0 18.5
    Maybe Tom Brady just wasn't "angry" enough in Week 1. Either way, he's getting a New Orleans defense that just made Bradford look like the best quarterback in the NFL. There are still some concerns about Brady's age and the move toward a more vertical offense, but I would be shocked if he didn't light up the Saints this week. Brees is, of course, an excellent choice as well, and he has great numbers (10 touchdowns, one pick) in his career against Bill Belichick's defense. I just prefer Brady since he has more weapons around him right now.

    I like Aaron Rodgers over Matt Ryan since you can get some rushing production from Rodgers in that matchup. Both should be really good though. I would fade Derek Carr if only because the Raiders should be done early with the Jets, hence little need to throw for 350-plus yards.

    Top running back: Melvin Gordon vs. Miami Dolphins

    Projections For Elite RBs In Week 2
    PLAYER TEAM PROJ +/- TOT
    Melvin Gordon LAC 17.1 1.6 18.7
    Le'Veon Bell PIT 19.2 -2.2 17.0
    Devonta Freeman ATL 15.7 0.0 15.7
    LeSean McCoy BUF 17.6 -3.4 14.2
    Ezekiel Elliott DAL 17.3 -3.4 13.9
    Melvin Gordon did not have a lot of running room last week, but he still had 23 touches and scored a touchdown. Miami's a good matchup for him in a game that also could be sneaky offensive. Last week, Le'Veon Bell clearly was rusty, which was especially visible in the passing game. He'll be better this week, but the Vikings are still a tough matchup and the Steelers struggled to move Cleveland's front seven last week. I wouldn't go all in on Bell in any format this week.

    I wouldn't entirely fade Elliott in Denver, since run defense is still the weakness in that unit, but don't expect a lot. Devonta Freeman should have solid value against the Packers, and McCoy is coming off a minor injury and has a tough matchup in Carolina. I would fade McCoy's high salary this week.

    Top wide receiver: Julio Jones vs. Green Bay Packers

    Projections For Elite WRs In Week 2
    PLAYER TEAM PROJ +/- TOT
    Antonio Brown PIT 21.3 1.1 22.4
    Julio Jones ATL 18.3 -0.2 18.1
    Amari Cooper OAK 17.3 0.0 17.3
    Brandin Cooks NE 15.6 1.6 17.1
    Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 17.1 -0.2 17.0
    Over the past few years, almost every time Jones has a game under 70 receiving yards, he responds with 90-plus yards the following week. Green Bay really doesn't have a top corner to match up with him, and I cannot see Jones being so quiet (by his standards) two weeks in a row. Antonio Brown caught all 11 of his targets in Week 1, but the Vikings should have a better matchup with Xavier Rhodes at cornerback. I think the Steelers also try to get Bell and Martavis Bryant more involved this week, so not as much for Brown.

    Odell Beckham Jr. should be faded until he proves he is healthy enough to contribute at an elite level. Amari Cooper should be a solid play in cash games, but again, the Raiders won't need to throw a ton to beat the Jets. I really like Brandin Cooks going back to New Orleans with a chip on his shoulder and an "angry" quarterback throwing him deep shots against a terrible secondary. If there's a better stack than Brady-Gronkowski, it is Brady-Cooks this week. You might even try to play all three of them together if this game lives up to expectations.

    Top tight end: Rob Gronkowski at New Orleans Saints

    Projections For Elite TEs In Week 2
    PLAYER TEAM PROJ +/- TOT
    Rob Gronkowski NE 13.6 1.4 15.0
    Travis Kelce KC 13.7 -0.7 13.0
    Greg Olsen CAR 13.0 -0.7 12.3
    Jordan Reed WAS 12.6 -0.6 12.0
    Zach Ertz PHI 11.0 0.0 11.0
    After one week, the Saints rank 31st against tight ends. After such a quiet Week 1, Gronkowski is a favorite to post big numbers this week in that back-and-forth game. It's an expensive stack with Brady and Gronkowski, but it can really pay off when they hit. I think this will be a big week for the best tight end in the game. Zach Ertz will catch a break with Eric Berry out for the Chiefs, but that defense is still tough without him. I wouldn't count on Ertz to deliver again this week. Greg Olsen is another Week 1 dud expected to rebound in a big way this week. My only concern with that matchup is that Buffalo coach Sean McDermott should know from his time in Carolina just how important Olsen is to this passing game. Still, he's worth a play.
     

  17. #42  
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    Week 2 fantasy football flex rankings
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/14/27

    One week down, 16 more to go! There’s surely a long way to go for this season, and let’s just say not everyone is so prone to overreacting after one week, including this writer. Some of the players ranked nicely below did not perform so awesome in Week 1, and some of the players not ranked nicely – or perhaps not ranked at all – did produce big numbers already. Let’s see more. We spent literally months constructing our season rankings, and sure, we shouldn’t be blind to things that have changed and should be willing to react, but don’t simply punt aside players that can still be valuable.

    It’s Week 2, so let’s all flex!
    1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Even when the other Steelers around him weren’t great, he was great. It is a tougher matchup, but he’s so consistent that it’s tough to ever be concerned.
    2. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: There should be many passes thrown in the Atlanta-Green Bay game.

    3. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: I need to see many more touches from him, and have to assume he’s ready for them.

    4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: At this point, it's best to assume no suspension.

    5. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers: He looked fine in Denver, and should look fine all season.

    6. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

    7. Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots: Revenge! But really, shouldn’t he be thanking the Saints for sending him to the defending champs?

    8. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: If only he could play against his own defense when it counts.

    9. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams: Gurley was not so efficient in Week 1, so it is possible we’re all overrating him. I grant that that option is realistic.

    10. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

    11. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

    12. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers: Rusty or fresh? It's not worth trying to guess, so just assume he’s a top-5 receiver or close to it.

    13. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars: Impressive outing for his first game, and no reason to think it stops. The Jags want/need to run the football.

    14. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers: He’s not going to score every week. Well, he will this week. Last week, he saw the touches that we wanted to see.

    15. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Andy Dalton isn’t a good quarterback, but he’s not that bad, either. I can’t believe someone would allow you to buy low, but go for it.

    16. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Fitz meets the Colts and with a questionable running game. I like it.

    17. Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: What can he do for an encore because Week 1 was amazing! Be happy with 100 total yards.

    18. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

    19. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants: This seems like a strange spot to rank him because usually he’s top-5. Fair point, but as of Thursday, this is what I believe is the line for him since we still don’t know if he’ll play, and since the game is Monday, we might not know at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Just prepare ahead.

    20. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders: Lynch looked fine to me in Week 1.

    21. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: Despite the addition of a potential timeshare guy, he looked OK as well. Don’t panic yet.

    22. Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins: What? He gained no yards in Week 1?!? Oh yeah, they didn’t play. As with Evans, don’t overthink this. Just play him.

    23. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans: Some want to believe his slow start means something. I’m not there yet.

    24. Terrance West, RB, Ravens: Obviously I think he’s a decent player, so it’d be nice if he keeps playing well now. And my theory is that this is not a timeshare, but he was rested in the second half of a Week 1 blowout win.

    25. Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers: Montgomery was not efficient in Week 1, but should have easier time against the Falcons.

    26. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

    27. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos: Trevor Siemian has two really good options, and that’s about it. And they’re about equal.

    28. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

    29. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Even against a strong secondary, he is tough to deal with.

    30. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

    31. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs: If he makes a big play or two per week, then I’ve seriously underestimated him. A few plays makes a performance look good. It will be interesting to see how defenses try to handle Hill.

    32. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings: It doesn’t look like he’s sharing too much.

    33. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos: Anderson isn't sharing much, either, but he’s got to keep playing well. The team has options.

    34. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders

    35. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders

    36. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Every time he falls to the ground, whether he’s tackled or dives or whatever, admit that you’re wondering if he just got hurt.

    37. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

    38. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns: Would like to see him average more than two yards per rush, but it is also way too early to worry.

    39. Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots: Gillislee likely falls short of his pace for 48 touchdowns, but would 20 be so shocking? Yeah, probably.

    40. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: Pretty much everyone believes Deshaun Watson is an upgrade on Tom Savage, but is he enough of an upgrade for Hopkins?

    41. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers

    42. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: It would be nice if the Panthers are pushed a bit so Cam Newton needs to throw more to his excellent tight end.

    43. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

    44. Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins: Things will be OK with this offense, but it was not a great Week 1 for Pryor.

    45. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins

    46. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles

    47. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Buccaneers: Lots of people have forgotten that he’s the starter for the first month. If he plays well, he might keep starting, too.

    48. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: Not that any Saints runners looked particularly good on Monday, but let’s go with this guy first.

    49. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

    50. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles: Ertz is a lot better than you think. Check the numbers.

    51. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: Another tough matchup for Dez, but after this week, he’ll move up.

    52. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: I’ll place the over/under on Andrew Luck games this season at 8.5, but probably take the under. And don’t act like you have any idea what Jacoby Brissett will do.

    53. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins

    54. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings: Diggs looked great on Monday, but he also isn’t playing the Saints again.

    55. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets: I’ll give him another few weeks to get going. The Jets have to get him more involved.

    56. DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers

    57. DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins

    58. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Eagles: Hey, he got into the end zone, and did so with the second receiving score of his career. You can’t really complain about him yet.

    59. Frank Gore, RB, Colts

    60. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

    61. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: So far, so good for each of the Carolina runners.

    62. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Saints: I'm still intrigued by the potential. He was open quite a bit downfield on Monday. Drew Brees will find him.

    63. Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers: Perhaps I was a bit too excited about Brian Hoyer, but it’s way too early to tell.

    64. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens

    65. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

    66. James White, RB, Patriots: It seems like he’s worth holding onto for another few weeks.

    67. Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: Hardly a lock to play as he's dealing with a concussion. If he plays, let's assume he's worth it.

    68. Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams

    69. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams: I guess I'm alone on an island thinking the rookie will produce just like his star teammate, but I’m sticking with it. Nothing that happened in Week 1 dissuaded me.

    70. Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers

    71. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers: Cobb looked awfully busy and healthy in Week 1. Perhaps he’s being underrated and Davante Adams overrated. Or perhaps it’s just one week.

    72. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

    73. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

    74. Chris Johnson, RB, Cardinals: Surprise! Look, who cares if he was on the roster in Week 1? He is now. And he’s a lot more likely than the next guy, who was added in so many leagues, to shoulder a heavy workload.

    75. Kerwynn Williams, RB, Cardinals: Well, Williams should catch passes, at the least.

    76. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

    77. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: I'm finding it hard to believe we ever believed in him.

    78. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers

    79. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings: Man, he looked amazing against the Saints. Let’s see what the Vikings can do in Western Pennsylvania.

    80. Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants: They’ll score a touchdown this week -- perhaps three or four.

    81. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: Talent generally wins out.

    82. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

    83. Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears: Some are comparing his role to that of Tyreek Hill. I'm not seeing that yet, but add him to your bench.

    84. Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: Coleman is still a must-own, if not a must-handcuff.

    85. Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens

    86. Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Time for the obligatory, annual Frisman Jackson reference. In Week 1 of 2005, he went off. And that was it. Golladay is far better, but owners will be chasing touchdowns on him for two months now.

    87. Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins: They just had a lot of trouble opening holes for Kelley in Week 1. Not sure that changes in Week 2, but don’t cut him.

    88. Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks

    89. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks: Tough call on the Seattle backs, so really, avoid them all. Most believe Carson is the breakout guy, and I agree. But Rawls will get the chance.

    90. Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Browns

    91. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots

    92. Kenny Britt, WR, Browns

    93. Paul Perkins, RB, Giants: We generally say that every starting running back is worth a look, but the New York o-line makes it tough to believe in Perkins.

    94. Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans

    95. John Brown, WR, Cardinals: Time for him to do something neat. He caught only four of nine targets against the Lions.

    96. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts

    97. Jordan Matthews, WR, Bills

    98. Corey Coleman, WR, Browns

    99. Corey Davis, WR, Titans

    100. Matt Forte, RB, Jets

    And that’s how quickly expectations changed for the first guy in the “others” category, the future Hall of Famer. Two Jets topped him.

    Others: Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints; Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles; Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars; Martellus Bennett, TE, Packers; Eric Decker, WR, Titans; Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Lions; Zay Jones, WR, Bills; Shane Vereen, RB, Giants; Javorius Allen, RB, Ravens; Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals; C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks; Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks; Derrick Henry, RB, Titans; Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins
     

  18. #43  
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    What to watch: Is Beckham worth waiting on?
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN Insider
    9/16/17


    The sprained ankle still hampering Odell Beckham Jr. remains a big problem for fantasy owners, but even more so because of the timing of his team’s game. Sure, players get hurt. Players are questionable each and every week. When players are hurt and questionable and aren’t scheduled to appear in the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games, it becomes more difficult for fantasy owners to prepare. In Week 1 the Giants were the Sunday night game. In Week 2 they are the Monday night game. Yep, now things are worse for planning purposes because, as of this writing, it seems like Beckham is going to once again be the dreaded game-time decision, which is an obvious issue.
    As a Beckham owner myself, it’s clarity that we covet and, thus, for the second consecutive weekend, the enigmatic New York star’s situation is certainly something to watch. However, I’m thinking I won’t be waiting around for Monday injury updates anyway. Last week, fantasy owners certainly had more options. They could have rostered/activated other Giants receivers like Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard or gone with the Cowboys' Cole Beasley in that game, plus there were a pair of Monday night contests offering several strong options. This week, it will be just the Giants and Detroit Lions to choose from -- and the Giants, sans Beckham, are an obvious mess.

    After all, the Giants were one of several offenses that did not score a touchdown in Week 1, and Big Blue wasn’t exactly all that proficient late last season either. The Giants failed to score 20 points in their final six games of the 2016 season, including the playoff loss at Lambeau Field -- and didn’t score 30 in any game. That seems odd considering the awesome Beckham is on this club, but there’s no running game here thanks (mostly) to the offensive line -- sorry, Paul Perkins owners. In Week 1, quarterback Eli Manning didn’t find other options. Apparently, teams really do need an offensive line. Just ask the Bengals, who still haven’t scored a touchdown in eight quarters.

    Anyway, if we find out by Sunday morning that Beckham is likely to play Monday night, then my current ranking of the star receiver (in which he’s notably quite far from my top 10) looks silly. I grant that. My ranking of Beckham is predicated on the risk of leaving other proficient receivers on your bench when the Sunday early games begin. Also, can we really expect him to perform at his normal, excellent level even if he does suit up? I have doubts, especially since he’ll be matched up with solid Detroit corner Darius Slay. Those who say “play your stars regardless of health or matchup” are missing the point. Beckham will not be 100 percent even if he plays.

    Ultimately, it’s Week 2 and fantasy owners have plenty of options, so I don’t mind sticking with my stance on the issue. We can wait until Monday and play Marshall, Shepard or the Lions’ Marvin Jones Jr. or Kenny Golladay if necessary, but none of that sounds great, either. Don’t be afraid to -- perhaps like Beckham himself -- simply sit this one out and rely on others from Sunday, because there are plenty of others.

    Other storylines to pay close attention to this weekend

    1. Second-year quarterbacks: Both Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and the Rams’ Jared Goff threw for more than 300 yards in Week 1. Neither had entered the week all that popular with fantasy owners. That makes sense, and neither should be in many lineups this week either, but if these two guys keep playing well, that will change. The Eagles are in Kansas City this week while the Rams host the same Redskins defense that Wentz thrived against in the opener. Consistency will be key for the top picks of the 2016 draft and it also will be interesting to see if their presumed top targets become more involved. Wentz completed more than half his passes to Zach Ertz -- who is becoming a top-five tight end -- and the previously forgotten Nelson Agholor. Goff certainly seems to like rookie Cooper Kupp quite a bit. Whither Alshon Jeffery and Sammy Watkins? Eh, those guys will probably be fine, too, but I have to be honest, I wouldn’t be necessarily buying low, either.

    2. Arizona running backs: With top overall pick David Johnson on the shelf until after Thanksgiving -- ugh, it hurts even to type those words -- the Cardinals figure to go with diminutive Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington early in the game, then work in the newly signed Chris Johnson. All are still readily available in ESPN standard leagues. The Cardinals are certainly implying that "CJ?K" will be heavily involved, though perhaps not initially, while the quicker Williams and Ellington figure to be better utilized as pass-catchers. Still, who really knows? What we do know, as of this writing, is that Johnson was the least added of the three options in ESPN standard leagues. We also know the Cardinals are in Indianapolis against what appeared to be a truly terrible team. They’d better win this one. Carson Palmer isn’t in danger of losing his job to some youngster, but it would be nice to see him and speedy John Brown hook up at a better rate.

    3. No more bye weeks: There’s rampant overreacting far and wide from the Week 1 results, and this pretty much falls in line with oh, every past season. If you really, truly want to drop Hunter Henry for Jesse James after one game I think it’s a really bad idea, but it’s your team. Of course, that’s what’s happening. Nevertheless, the Buccaneers and Dolphins haven’t even played yet, thanks to Mother Nature, so we’re even more intrigued to watch. The Dolphins have to deal with Philip Rivers and the Chargers in SoCal. The Bucs host Mike Glennon and the surprisingly competitive (after one week, anyway) Bears. The hierarchy of Miami wide receivers and Tampa Bay running backs will be of interest. By the way, for further proof of impatience, two key Dolphins (Jay Cutler, Julius Thomas) as well as all three relevant Buccaneers running backs (the suspended Doug Martin, starter Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims) and both Tampa Bay tight ends (Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard) are already among the most dropped at their respective positions. They haven’t played yet!
     

  19. #44  
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    Where the Panthers and fantasy players should turn with Greg Olsen out
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/18/17

    The tight end position seemed to offer several distinct classes of high-end talent entering this season. The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, Redskins' Jordan Reed and Bengals' Tyler Eifert fit on one side of the debate as terrific players we can't really count on for a full season of games or, perhaps even close to it. Then there was the Panthers' Greg Olsen, Chiefs' Travis Kelce and Titans' Delanie Walker, also standout performers but more likely to stay healthy and offer fantasy owners the luxury of not needing a backup. Then on Sunday one of them got hurt.

    Olsen broke his right foot in the first half of Sunday's ugly 9-3 win over the Buffalo Bills, as fantasy owners first bemoaned the lack of the game's scoring and then the loss of arguably the most reliable tight end. Olsen will surely be reevaluated Monday and clarity on length of absence is pending -- colleague Stephania Bell offers her take -- but as of now, in Olsen's words, "I am going to miss a lot of games." That hurts the Panthers and fantasy managers that had made Olsen, coming off three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, a fifth-round choice in ESPN average live drafts.

    The Panthers will host the defense-deficient New Orleans Saints in Week 3 sans the top Cam Newton target and with quite a few concerns, starting with the quarterback himself. Newton hasn't performed remotely to the level of a top-10 fantasy quarterback in either of the first two games, wins over the 49ers and Bills. Coming off shoulder surgery, Newton has been far from accurate throwing the football downfield and hasn't been running much, either. He'll be ranked top 10 against the Saints, even sans Olsen, but needs to perform well to justify the attention moving forward.

    Then there are the targets left behind. Veteran tight end Ed Dickson figures to fill in for Olsen and he's not likely to be overly fantasy-relevant, though he caught 54 passes and five touchdowns for the 2011 Ravens. He could surprise, but it seems as if the Devin Funchess performance Sunday is a better harbinger. Funchess is a third-year wide receiver with the size of a tight end, and was targeted seven times Sunday, catching 68 yards worth passes. Kelvin Benjamin rebounded nicely from a quiet first game and should be even busier moving ahead. It also seems about time rookie running back Christian McCaffrey breaks out; in two games he has seen 30 touches but done little with them. Again, the Saints game will be critical for fantasy players deciding his value.

    As for tight ends to seek out in fantasy, the Saints' Coby Fleener has scored touchdowns each of the first two weeks, bringing him to within one of his total from his disappointing 2016 season, though it's easy to remain dubious. Perhaps Fleener really can be counted on. Well-traveled Raider Jared Cook is seeing targets in a high-octane offense, as is Pittsburgh's Jesse James, who scored two touchdowns in Week 1. And after a Week 1 full of zeroes, Baltimore's Benjamin Watson caught eight passes for 91 yards Sunday. Those are the best options available in at least half of ESPN's standard formats, as Jason Witten, Jack Doyle and Austin Hooper are on rosters in at least 64 percent of leagues.

    One final note on tight ends: Gronkowski (groin) and Reed (chest) actually left their respective games prematurely because of injuries, which shouldn't shock anyone, but potentially leaves their status for Week 3 in some degree of question. Perhaps they'll be fine, but with each player there should never be surprise when they are hurt, and fantasy players need to secure a second tight end option. That wasn't a concern last month in drafts for the likes of Olsen, Kelce and others. Perhaps in this sport, nobody is really safe.

    Second down: Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian is the only player at his position to start the season with consecutive games of 22 or more PPR points, pending what the Lions' Matthew Stafford achieves Monday. Siemian produced only two such performances all of his 2016 season, but he looks more mature in the pocket and has showed more accuracy as well. We knew all along Siemian could rely on a pair of 1,000-yard wide receivers from last season in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and the Northwestern product did that against the Cowboys on Sunday, targeting each eight times, but it would also be nice if he could turn to others. Last season no other Broncos were targeted more than 45 times, caught more than 31 passes or eclipsed two receiving touchdowns. On Sunday, Siemian tossed touchdown passes to running back C.J. Anderson -- who also looks terrific -- and tight end Virgil Green. Being a bit less predictable could make Siemian a potential fantasy starter in favorable matchups.

    As for a notable quarterback struggler of the day, Washington's Kirk Cousins threw for a mere 179 yards and one touchdown against the L.A. Rams, and after two weeks he has totaled 22.5 PPR points, or fewer than Siemian achieved Sunday alone. Cousins has a new offensive coordinator, each of his 1,000-yard receivers from 2016 in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson left town and so far Terrelle Pryor Sr., Josh Doctson and others have yet to pick up the slack. Cousins has the Raiders and Chiefs up next and probably shouldn't be characterized as a top-10 quarterback until his statistics change.

    Third down: Seattle Seahawks rookie running back Chris Carson has probably emerged as the starter for the team after providing 100 total yards (93 of them rushing) in the ugly 12-9 win over the 49ers. Carson watched Thomas Rawls get the start, but he turned his five carries into a mere four yards. C.J. Prosise was used solely as a pass receiver out of the backfield and veteran Eddie Lacy looked so bad in Week 1 he wasn't even permitted to dress for Week 2. He might not even be on the roster much longer. Carson, a seventh-round pick from Oklahoma State, looked quick and powerful in Week 1 and then better in the second half Sunday. Assuming the Seahawks don't announce something silly with their running back hierarchy for Week 3 against the Titans, Carson, even behind a suspect offensive line, could warrant RB2 status.

    As for the Titans, there figure to be many questions this week about DeMarco Murray, who turned his nine carries into only 25 yards and wasn't much better in Week 1. He wasn't needed in the second half of a blowout win over the Jaguars but might not have been available anyway due to a tight hamstring. Derrick Henry, one of the most dropped players in ESPN standard leagues simply because he didn't play well (or much) in Week 1, turned his 14 carries into 92 yards and scored on a 17-yard jaunt. Murray's still the guy for Week 3, but Henry should be picked up in more leagues, as Murray's track record for consistency year-after-year isn't the best.

    Fourth down: While much of the focus this week regarding the Arizona Cardinals was on the running game in the wake of the David Johnson injury, there was also opportunity at wide receiver for someone to step up with John Brown unavailable. J.J. Nelson did precisely that, scoring on a 45-yarder and piling on 120 yards off five receptions. Jaron Brown saw the targets Larry Fitzgerald usually gets, with 11, but caught only four of them. Nelson is the one to look at this week because it's going to be tough to rely on John Brown, a talented speedster who has struggled to stay on the field. Carson Palmer threw for a misleading 332 yards in the overtime win, but this can remain a fantasy-relevant offense. And by the way, Chris Johnson looked the best of the running backs and figures to be the one to have moving forward, if not quite more than a flex choice.

    On the bad side, those who selected Raiders star Amari Cooper over Michael Crabtree in drafts had reason to do so, but we certainly have been pointing out that Crabtree has been the higher fantasy scorer each of the past two seasons, and I have been ranking Crabtree just slightly better each week, though individual cornerback matchups have also dictated this. In the blowout win over the Jets on Sunday, Crabtree caught not one, not two, but three touchdown passes for a position-best 32 PPR points (six catches, 80 yards), while Cooper was held to 33 yards. Don't panic on Cooper. Yes, Crabtree continues to be underrated and he might very well outscore Cooper yet again this season, but Cooper is still very good. He scored in Week 1, had plenty of targets and now's a good time to target him if the manager with Cooper in your league is panicking.
     

  20. #45  
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    Week 2 takeaways on Chris Carson, J.J. Nelson, Derrick Henry and more
    Matt Bowen
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/18/17

    The Seattle Seahawks have found their No. 1 back in rookie Chris Carson after watching him post 100 total yards on 21 touches against the San Francisco 49ers. But what should fantasy owners expect out of Carson, and how does he fit the offensive identity in Seattle? Let's break down what Carson brings to Pete Carroll's team and also take a look at Javorius Allen's value in Baltimore, J.J. Nelson as a must-add this week and the expected boost in volume for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Here are my Week 2 fantasy takeaways.

    Chris Carson is the "closer" to roster in Seattle

    When the Seahawks went into their "four-minute" drill -- the package of plays to bleed the clock, move the sticks and close out the win over the 49ers -- it was all Carson. That's right. The rookie saw five straight carries in a critical situation. And he responded with 41 yards. Ballgame.
    Carson finished with 93 yards on 20 carries and added one grab for another 7 yards. That's 100 total yards on a day when Eddie Lacy was a healthy scratch and Thomas Rawls produced just 4 yards rushing on five carries. Hey, that kind of stuff earns you a job in this league. And it's exactly what Pete Carroll is looking for at the running back position.

    Remember, this is the same guy who flashed during the preseason. The talent is there with Carson and so is the system fit in Seattle. The Seahawks desperately need that lead back, the downhill runner who can pound the football in the fourth quarter. Based on what I saw on Sunday, Carson is the back you want to roster on this Seahawks team. He has the upside of a low-end RB2 moving forward for a team that is going to run the rock.

    J.J. Nelson should be prioritized as a must-add this week versus the Cowboys' secondary

    On Sunday, Nelson posted 120 yards receiving and a touchdown on five receptions (24.0 yards per catch). The TD grab? A straight post route for 45 yards. This is a guy who can go out and drop a 4.2 on the stopwatch. Blazing speed.

    Now, we all know the Cardinals just played a Colts secondary that got torn up by the Rams in Week 1. They are young and inexperienced in Indianapolis. But the next matchup for Arizona comes against a banged-up Cowboys secondary that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian just went to work on. If Dallas sits in some single-high safety defenses, Nelson will have the matchups to win outside. Fade, post, double move, deep crosser off play-action, etc. Take some shots with a quarterback in Carson Palmer who just went 3-of-5 for 98 yards on throws of 15 or more yards down the field versus the Colts.

    Where does that put Nelson? I see him as an option this week for owners looking for that WR3/flex role. And if John Brown is still sitting with an injury, there will be even more opportunities for Nelson to produce. Think big-play ability and a positive matchup for a team that is trying to find a new identify without David Johnson in the lineup.

    Time to buy into Derrick Henry?

    I have to trust my eyes with Henry after the Titans running back ripped off 87 yards on the ground in the second half to finish with a total of 92 yards and a score on 14 carries (6.6 yards per carry). Henry ran with some juice versus the Jags, highlighted by a 17-yard touchdown run. You want to see some power? Go watch Henry bounce off tackles and then run right through contact to get the ball in the end zone. Nasty.

    More important, Henry led the team in carries versus Jacksonville, as starter DeMarco Murray (nine carries, 25 yards before leaving with hamstring tightness) watched from the sideline while the Bama product put on a show in the second half. Yeah, this doesn't mean that Murray is done. Nope. But the Titans coaches are seeing the same thing we are. And it should lead to an increased workload for Henry.

    Think about this: If the Titans didn't burn a creative play on the Delanie Walker "jet" sweep out of jumbo personnel on the goal line (gotta save that play) or go back to the 1980s on the fullback belly to Jalston Fowler, Henry might have put the ball in the end zone three times.

    Let's see how the carries shake out with Henry and Murray this week in Seattle. That's a good test. But it's clear that Henry's value is on the rise and he's more than just a handcuff to Murray in an offense that will always lean on the ground game under head coach Mike Mularkey.

    Give Kelvin Benjamin a boost heading into Week 3 versus the Saints' defense

    Deep middle-of-the-field throws. The quick passing game outside the numbers. And red zone targets. Hey, this is what Benjamin owners signed up for. And after that really disappointing performance in Week 1 (five targets, one reception, 25 yards), Benjamin gave owners a little bit more on Sunday with 77 yards on six grabs (eight targets).

    Yeah, it's still a line that needs to improve, but Benjamin had red zone opportunities (slant, fade) and his role/volume should expand even more now with tight end Greg Olsen out for an extended period of time with a broken foot. That production needs to be replaced. And with a matchup this week versus a Saints secondary that has been absolutely gashed through two games, giving up a total of 777 passing yards, I'm locking in Benjamin as a high-end WR2 this week.

    This is that "get well" game for the Carolina offense, quarterback Cam Newton and Benjamin. The Panthers wide receiver will be in a position to exploit single-man routes (take the matchup) or to come clean off the combination concepts that have given the Saints' defense so many issues to start the season. Plus, when Benjamin aligns out wide, he will be going against a group that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 22 of 28 passes for 343 yards and six touchdowns on throws outside the numbers. Yikes. And that, along with the injury to Olsen, should open plenty of doors for Benjamin to produce.

    Javorius "Buck" Allen entering the RB2 mix

    Allen doesn't have the top-tier matchup ability of the injured Danny Woodhead, but he's playing a part in replacing the Ravens' passing-down back. On Sunday, Allen caught 5 of 6 targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. And those six targets were second on the team to tight end Benjamin Watson.

    However, we also have to look at the ground game with Allen. He showed some open-field speed and vison on his 37-yard run late in the second quarter. Get downhill, make a cut and then move the ball. Allen finished with 66 yards rushing on a team-high 14 carries against a Browns defense that had previously shut down Le'Veon Bell in Week 1, while Terrance West saw only eight carries and averaged a lowly 2.8 yards per run (22 total yards rushing).

    Give Allen a boost this week. He's got more value in PPR scoring, as he should continue to see targets in the passing game. Plus, with the run game, he gives owners some real volume. Because of that, I see Allen as a low-end RB2 or possible flex consideration versus the Jags in London this Sunday.

    Jay Cutler's top targets in Miami

    Cutler's first game with the Dolphins went as I expected under Adam Gase: quick passes, run-pass options, wide receiver screens and the 50/50 throws down the field. And we saw how that impacted the production for wide receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker.

    With Cutler, Landry is a PPR machine. Get the ball out quick and reduce the risk, right? No doubt. Gase wants to take away those negative throws with Cutler, and that allowed Landry to catch short passes/screens all day. In fact, Cutler averaged only 2.2 air yards per target when throwing the ball to Landry and only one completion traveled more than 6 yards in the air. But the targets/receptions are the story here. Landry saw a whopping 15 targets from Cutler and hauled in 13 passes for 78 yards. He's not the guy to own in non-PPR leagues, but as a WR2 in PPR scoring? Yeah, Landry just produced 20.1 points for owners.

    As for Parker, he's the Alshon Jeffery for Cutler, that wide receiver with the size/frame and the catch radius to finish on those contested throws. On Sunday, Parker caught four passes (on nine targets) for 85 yards (21.3 yards per catch). And he's going to continue seeing the ball from Cutler, which includes red zone targets and one-on-one situations over the top. He should be a solid flex option moving forward in non-PPR leagues.

    In Gase's system, Cutler isn't the fantasy QB to roster. We know that. But his top two wideouts do have value and upside in the lineup, depending on what type of scoring system you use in your league.

    Bounce-back game for Hunter Henry

    After posting an absolute zero in Week 1 in not just receptions but targets, Henry caught all seven of his targets Sunday versus the Dolphins for 80 yards. And, really, this is what the second-year tight end can do when you break down his skill set. Henry has the route-running talent, can create matchups and also produce after the catch.

    Cutler's first game with the Dolphins went as I expected under Adam Gase: quick passes, run-pass options, wide receiver screens and the 50/50 throws down the field. And we saw how that impacted the production for wide receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker.

    With Cutler, Landry is a PPR machine. Get the ball out quick and reduce the risk, right? No doubt. Gase wants to take away those negative throws with Cutler, and that allowed Landry to catch short passes/screens all day. In fact, Cutler averaged only 2.2 air yards per target when throwing the ball to Landry and only one completion traveled more than 6 yards in the air. But the targets/receptions are the story here. Landry saw a whopping 15 targets from Cutler and hauled in 13 passes for 78 yards. He's not the guy to own in non-PPR leagues, but as a WR2 in PPR scoring? Yeah, Landry just produced 20.1 points for owners.

    As for Parker, he's the Alshon Jeffery for Cutler, that wide receiver with the size/frame and the catch radius to finish on those contested throws. On Sunday, Parker caught four passes (on nine targets) for 85 yards (21.3 yards per catch). And he's going to continue seeing the ball from Cutler, which includes red zone targets and one-on-one situations over the top. He should be a solid flex option moving forward in non-PPR leagues.

    In Gase's system, Cutler isn't the fantasy QB to roster. We know that. But his top two wideouts do have value and upside in the lineup, depending on what type of scoring system you use in your league.

    Bounce-back game for Hunter Henry

    After posting an absolute zero in Week 1 in not just receptions but targets, Henry caught all seven of his targets Sunday versus the Dolphins for 80 yards. And, really, this is what the second-year tight end can do when you break down his skill set. Henry has the route-running talent, can create matchups and also produce after the catch.
     

  21. #46  
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    Week 3 fantasy football flex rankings
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/20/17

    Weíre moving the flex rankings up to Wednesdays to give fantasy owners a bit more time to digest and help with decision-making. For updates later in the week, take a look at our main rankings pages, as they are constantly updated through Saturday, with the Thursday players removed after that game and more players added. You donít need to finalize rosters on Wednesdays, but in case youíre interested, here they are for your consumption, and as always these are PPR!

    Itís Week 3, so letís all flex!

    1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Wasnít a home run in Week 2 against the Vikings, but itís still double-digit PPR points. That will work.
    2. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: This matchup in Detroit figures to be fun for fantasy owners.

    3. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: The touches were there in Week 2, and the touchdowns will come.

    4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: Worst game of his career in Denver, but too talented to be that bad consistently.

    5. Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins: Facing the Jets, and this year that will be a great thing. Jets have allowed the most rushing yards so far.

    6. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

    7. Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: Stymied in the first half against the Eagles, he broke a big play and the final line looked great again. Itís a fantastic situation to succeed, with no competition.

    8. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Might seem strange to rank him so generously when Andy Dalton has been so awful, but the latter wonít continue. Dalton isnít a fantasy star, but heís proven.

    9. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

    10. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

    11. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants: He played on Monday but was pretty quiet. Itís probably because heís not close to 100 percent! Still, if Giants can protect Eli Manning, Beckham can exploit Phillyís secondary.

    12. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

    13. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams: So much volume that he really doesnít need to play great to rack up the points. He has topped 20 PPR points each week and is catching passes.

    14. Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers: Plenty of volume here as well, and the passing game is saving his numbers. And the touchdowns.

    15. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: Brutal Week 2 game, but heís going to be fine. Trade for him.

    16. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Still think heís gonna play all 16? Anything is possible, but in this case, donít get greedy.

    17. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

    18. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Quiet Week 2 shouldnít be viewed as harbinger of more. He was old last year as well when he led the NFL in receptions.

    19. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Underrated by all. The tepid preseason ranking was about health. Heís healthy and hopefully it continues.

    20. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: Health is really his lone issue too, and he is running nicely. Thursday game this week, which generally means itís tough to watch and not many points. But you gotta play Hyde.

    21. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

    22. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos

    23. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings: Not saying his pending breakout game will look like the first Kareem Hunt game, but Iím not saying it wonít, either. Buy low while you still can.

    24. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos: He has played well in the past but the problem is consistency and health, and nothing that has happened so far changes that. Might be decent sell-high choice, actually.

    25. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: As of Wednesday morning heís 50-50 to play, so be careful. But should he play, he deserves our attention.

    26. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

    27. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers: Rough Week 2 but Iíd buy low. If weíre still having this discussion in Week 5, then thatís a different story.

    28. Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots: Iíll take the under on 18 touchdowns, but 13 or 14 is still awesome.

    29. Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots: Didnít light up the Saints as expected, but we know Pats options can be faded in some game plans week to week.

    30. Golden Tate, WR, Lions

    31. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos: So underrated. Heís really not far from Demaryius Thomas for value.

    32. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: Another underrated performer worthy of WR2 status weekly.

    33. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders: Stop dropping passes and the numbers will look better!

    34. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders: He can run and he can still dance. Downgrade a bit in PPR, though.

    35. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

    36. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

    37. Davante Adams, WR, Packers: Obviously he looks better if Nelson sits, but either way Aaron Rodgers can support at least three weapons.

    38. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: Some are going to want to cut him, but resist that. He was second in the NFL in rushing last season. Heís still good. Heís just hurt. Be patient.

    39. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns: If he canít run nicely on the Colts this week, then I might have to admit I was too high on him.

    40. Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins: Definitely wondering if we expected too much from him, but again, if he can reach 1,000 yards with the Browns, how can he disappear with Kirk Cousins? Buy low.

    41. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins: Itís not only that he misses games, but he leaves others early. I stayed away for a reason.

    42. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles: Flirted with 100 receiving yards each week and this could continue.

    43. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

    44. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans: As with Chicagoís Howard, last year wasnít a fluke, so donít run away.

    45. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans

    46. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings: We could blame his quiet Week 2 on the Sam Bradford absence, but it probably would have happened anyway. They played the Saints in Week 1!

    47. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles

    48. Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

    49. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers: Playing the Saints this week. Gotta love that!

    50. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: He has clearly looked like the best Saints RB, and better stats are pending.

    51. Javorius Allen, RB, Ravens: Game situation really has dictated his rushing attempts, but that could continue as well. He just looks good.

    52. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings

    53. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins

    54. Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks: Clearly the top Seattle running back, but itís worth noting they do have other options if he struggles. He could be this yearís Jordan Howard, though.

    55. Frank Gore, RB, Colts: Canít really blame his teamís plight on him.

    56. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Buccaneers: Certainly possible he can keep playing really well and still cede the starting job to Doug Martin, but donít assume it.

    57. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Heís usable, really, and facing the Saints, but canít like the three targets in two games. Thatís not going to improve.

    58. Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers

    59. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins

    60. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions: Has 10 rushes, 10 receiving targets so far. Predict the winner! Targets leads over the past two seasons.

    61. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: Ran well versus the Giants, so perhaps there remain RB2 possibilities here.

    62. Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears: Donít assume that if Howard is out of the picture Cohen steps in for really major touches.

    63. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers

    64. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

    65. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens: No Raven has double-digit targets after two games, which is odd and not a great sign. There are 82 individuals with double-digit targets so far.

    66. DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins

    67. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

    68. Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: Still a usable flex in deep leagues.

    69. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets: Well, he hasnít been a usable anything so far, but I wouldnít cut him. The Jets make no sense. Powell is a good player!

    70. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

    71. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots

    72. Terrance West, RB, Ravens: If Javorius Allen is also getting more rushing attempts, then this isnít a fair competition for fantasy value.

    73. Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins: Keep an eye on this situation because Perine could start and get many touches.

    74. Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins: But this guy does seem determined to play, and he ran well in Week 2 before the injury.

    75. Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers: Just 54 yards in each game, but we know he can do better. Still no sign of rookie Mike Williams suiting up.

    76. Chris Johnson, RB, Cardinals: As expected, he was busy in his first game and ran well, but didnít see a receiving target, either.

    77. Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams

    78. J.J. Nelson, WR, Cardinals: Have to wonder if it matters whether John Brown plays at this point.

    79. Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers: Sleeper pick this week. Has the size of a tight end and Carolinaís starting tight end is out a long time.

    80. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

    81. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: One would think the rookie would have emerged by now, especially when the team canít score points.

    82. James White, RB, Patriots

    83. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Lions

    84. DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: With him, there will be plenty of games with six or so PPR points, but youíll activate him hoping he breaks some big plays. He should.

    85. Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Browns: So good in the passing game, perhaps theyíll line him up on the outside more.

    86. Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins: Same deal. He needs to be used more.

    87. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

    88. Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans

    89. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: Was on the most-dropped list entering Week 2. He might be on most-added side this week.

    90. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints

    91. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles: When heís leading the team in rushing attempts thatís not a great sign. Eagles must establish a running game. Or maybe the coach hasnít noticed.

    92. Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens

    93. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets: Thought it might be Robby Anderson taking the lead among the receivers, but itís clearly Kearse. Jets are doing a lot of throwing.

    94. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Saints: Wonít be ranked all the way down here most weeks.

    95. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams: So much fun to watch.

    96. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons: His 85 receiving yards in Week 2 were his best as a Falcon, but itís going to be tough for him to keep doing this next to Julio Jones. Sanu was quiet last season. Not much has changed.

    97. Eric Decker, WR, Titans

    98. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: What has gotten into him? Heís playing like a top-five tight end. Actually, heís the No. 1 TE scorer so far. Ride it out.

    99. Jack Doyle, TE, Colts

    100. Martellus Bennett, TE, Packers

    Others: Kerwynn Williams, RB, Cardinals; Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants; Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars; Rashard Higgins, WR, Browns; Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts; Matt Forte, RB, Jets; Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos; Paul Perkins, RB, Giants; Kendall Wright, WR, Bears; Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks; Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots; Shane Vereen, RB, Giants
     

  22. #47  
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    Best and worst wide receiver matchups for fantasy football Week 3
    Mike Clay
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/20/17

    By utilizing our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback line up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week.

    Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 3 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.


    To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers on each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet:

    Downloadable cheat sheet PDF

    Because of the size of the chart in the PDF, here is a key to help you get the most out of it each week:

    Rt = Number of routes run by each player during the 2016 season
    LWR/Slot/RWR = Percentage of the player's routes run from left wide receiver, the slot, and right wide receiver, respectively
    T/R = Targets per pass route
    F/R = Fantasy points per pass route
    Green suggests an advantage for the offensive player, while red indicates an advantage for the defender
    An "S" indicates projected shadow coverage

    Advantageous matchups


    Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Eagles 'Jalen Mills

    Beckham made his 2017 debut on Monday night at less than full health, but common logic suggests he should be closer to a full go against Philadelphia this weekend. That would be bad news for an Eagles defense that has holes at the cornerback position. Mills has been pummeled for 15 receptions and 177 yards on a league-high 21 targets this season. Beckham torched Philadelphia for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season, though only 19 of his 99 routes were against Mills (two catches, 43 yards). Beckham moves around the formation quite a bit, so he'll see some of Eagles rookie Rasul Douglas as well. Assuming he doesn't have a setback, Beckham should be locked into lineups this week.


    Rams' Sammy Watkins vs. 49ers' Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson

    Watkins has somehow managed only seven targets during his first two games with the Rams, but a light Week 3 matchup sets him up for a big day. Watkins has run 73 percent of his routes on the perimeter this season. Robinson and Johnson switch sides a ton, but are almost always on the outside. Robinson has allowed seven catches for 85 yards and one touchdown on 10 targets this season; Johnson has been a bit better on 13 targets, giving up five receptions and 56 yards. Watkins will also get some work against journeyman slot corner K'Waun Williams. The former Bills receiver is a flex option in this matchup.


    Panthers' Devin Funchess vs. Saints' P.J. Williams

    The Saints have allowed the second-most fantasy points to players lined up wide to the right this season, which is where Funchess has aligned on 48 percent of his routes. In fact, Funchess might even see Williams more than that with standout Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore occasionally traveling to shadow Brandin Cooks and Stefon Diggs the past two weeks. If Lattimore follows Kelvin Benjamin a few times this week, Funchess will be in even better shape. Williams has allowed a league-high 34 fantasy points through two weeks. New Orleans has also allowed the most fantasy points to slot receivers, which makes Russell Shepard a sleeper in very deep leagues.


    Jaguars' Allen Hurns vs. Ravens' Lardarius Webb

    Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr have locked down the perimeter for Baltimore so far this season, and the duo will spend most of Week 3 facing off with Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole on the outside. That opens the door for Hurns to see an uptick in targets against Webb. Webb is a decent slot corner, but his target-per-route rate is on the high side with teams avoiding throwing at Smith and Carr. Hurns is a sneaky -- albeit risky -- flex option in a seemingly tough matchup.

    Tough matchups


    Buccaneers' Mike Evans vs. Vikings' Xavier Rhodes

    Rhodes has emerged as one of the league's top cover corners and is a strong bet to shadow Evans in Week 3. Rhodes has limited his opposition to seven receptions for 86 yards so far this season despite facing Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas on 37 (or 70 percent) of the 53 pass plays he has been on the field for. With Rhodes locked on Evans, DeSean Jackson is sitting pretty for a nice day against Trae Waynes, who has allowed 28 fantasy points so far (10th-most). Evans should obviously remain in season-long lineups, but is a suggested fade in DFS cash games.


    Cowboys' Dez Bryant vs. Cardinals' Patrick Peterson

    Another week, another brutal matchup for Bryant. Dallas' superstar wide receiver has been targeted 25 times this season, a league-high seven of which were end zone targets. The result? Nine receptions, 102 yards and one touchdown. Bryant's efficiency has been poor due in part to tough matchups against Janoris Jenkins in Week 1 and Denver's elite cornerback group in Week 2. The going won't be any easier against Peterson, who is arguably the league's best shadow corner. The two last faced off back in 2014; on 31 pass plays, Peterson limited Bryant to two receptions for 15 yards and one score on 10 targets. Bryant has lined up in the slot on 31 percent of his routes this season, so he might be able to generate a few catches against Tyrann Mathieu, but he's unlikely to produce a big stat line against Peterson most of the afternoon. Terrance Williams has the look of a nice deep sleeper against Justin Bethel on the other side of the field. Bethel has surrendered a pair of touchdowns and the third-most fantasy points among corners this season.


    Falcons' Julio Jones vs. Lions' Darius Slay

    Jones had his way with the Packers' secondary again on Sunday night, but life won't be quite as easy with Slay likely to shadow him in Week 3. Slay has allowed only 10 catches for 85 yards on 86 routes this season. He didn't shadow against Arizona in Week 1, but followed Beckham around most of Monday night. Jones should be downgraded slightly. Even more notable, the matchup opens the door for Taylor Gabriel to rip off a big play or two against Nevin Lawson on the other side. Consider him a DFS tournament flier.


    Ravens' Mike Wallace vs. Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, and Ravens' Breshad Perriman vs. Jaguars' A.J. Bouye

    Wallace (89 percent) and Perriman (98 percent) have lined up almost exclusively on the perimeter this season. That's bad news against the Jaguars considering Ramsey (94 percent) and Bouye (96 percent) have done the same. Ramsey has been a bit better and has been targeted less often than Bouye thus far, but the two combine to form one of the game's top corner duos. Wallace and Perriman are both off to poor starts this season and this matchup pushes down their prospects even further. Neither should be in lineups. Slot man Jeremy Maclin (versus Aaron Colvin) and tight end Benjamin Watson figure to benefit underneath and should be upgraded.


    Bills' Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones vs. Broncos' Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby

    If your passing game is struggling, the recipe for a turnaround is the exact opposite of what the Bills will face in Week 3. The Broncos' defense has been terrific this season. This weekend, slot man Matthews is unlikely to do much damage against Harris. Jones will see Roby -- the worst of the Broncos' three "starting" corners -- most often, but he moves around quite a bit and will thus face off with Harris and Talib on roughly 40 percent of his routes. Needless to say, the Bills' passing game should be faded in Week 3.


    Eagles' Alshon Jeffery vs. Giants' Janoris Jenkins

    Jenkins missed Week 2 with an injury, but is expected back against the Eagles this week. Jeffery is a similar style receiver to Dez Bryant, which is notable considering that Jenkins has shut down Bryant three straight times, including when the two met in Week 1. Jeffery (then with the Bears) and Jenkins (then with the Rams) last faced off back in 2015. Jenkins held Jeffery without a catch on one target while covering him on nine routes. During the 2013-14 seasons, Jeffery ran 22 routes against Jenkins and was limited to four catches for 36 yards on seven targets. Jenkins is a strong bet to shadow Jeffery in this game, meaning the Eagles' top receiver should be downgraded. Expect Torrey Smith to see a little extra work with struggling second-year corner Eli Apple set to cover him this week.

    Other notes

    The Texans' Bruce Ellington missed Week 2 with a concussion, but if he returns this week, those of you in very deep leagues might want to consider him as a dart throw. The slot man will face Eric Rowe, who hasn't quite panned out as New England's slot corner so far. The Patriots have allowed the second-most fantasy points to slot receivers this season.

    The Chiefs' Marcus Peters does not shadow and San Diego's Keenan Allen has lined up wide to Philip Rivers' right only 12 percent of the time this season. That is where Peters calls home, so Allen can actually be upgraded in this Week 3 matchup against Terrance Mitchell and Phillip Gaines. Travis Benjamin will see Peters most often (roughly half his routes).
     

  23. #48  
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    Giving more chances to Howard, Murray and Miller
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/21/17

    Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard and Tennessee Titans option DeMarco Murray were top-20 selections in ESPN ADP this season, and nothing seemed wrong with that a few weeks ago, as they finished second and third, respectively, in rushing yards in 2016. However, after two weeks of the 2017 season, things arenít going so well. Theyíre not exactly piling on the rushing yards. Howard and Murray have combined to rush for 128 yards during four individual games, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.

    Fantasy owners should not be dumping these guys for the likes of Baltimoreís Javorius Allen or Washingtonís Samaje Perine, but itís going to be interesting to see what the numbers look like for activation purposes in ESPN standard leagues this week. The ESPN Fantasy rankings show Howard and Murray as RB2 options, even if itís barely, and some people view that as ridiculous. Who cares about 2016, those people say. These players are bad now! Well, perhaps thatís the case, but itís too early to know for sure yet.

    My feeling on why Howard and Murray remained top-20 running back options is partly due to believing good players to eventually start playing well, but also because -- and this is a weekly trend -- there just arenít enough running backs to trust. Can we assuredly trust Allen and Perine? It might not make sense to advise someone to play Howard, who is dealing with an injured right shoulder, over Allen, who is not only usurping rushing attempts from Terrance West but is also only two targets and three receptions from being the team leader, but as a group we did rank that way.

    In retrospect, depending on Howard news updates, that hierarchy could certainly be incorrect, and I wonít have issue adjusting things later in the week. In fact, I admit the ranking of Howard feels like a cop-out. Heís either a top-10 guy, or he could end up being treated like the Eaglesí LeGarrette Blount, who was ineffective and then flat-out ignored in Week 2. We donít know if Blount gets 15 touches in Week 3 or zero. Itís kind of similar with Howard, and that potential top-10 guy part brings us back. Weíre trusting him, but whereís the line on that? Is it when October starts? Itís different for everyone, really.

    Another problem for Howard and Murray is the fact that their backups are playing better than they are, so fantasy owners owning both Bears options, for example, might decide to go with rookie Tarik Cohen. The Titans have second-year bruiser Derrick Henry, and he played well in Week 2, certainly better than Murray, and heís a lot younger. Entering Week 2, Henry was among the most dropped running backs. Hey, itís a reactive fantasy world. Howardís got to play better, or heíll be on the most dropped list in a few weeks...or sooner. Just make sure Cohen and Henry are owned in your leagues.

    Ultimately, what I advise fantasy owners to do -- regardless of whether itís online or on social media or on Sundayís Fantasy Focus national radio show (9 a.m. ET to 1 p.m. ET) -- is to trust their gut. We give our thoughts, but those change, too. I admitted my feelings on Howard might be different by Friday. If you really want to use Cohen and sit Howard, I wonít argue. I might do the same, though my rankings, as well as ours as a staff, do not reflect that. We want to believe that Howard, Murray and other strugglers like Bilal Powell, Blount and Adrian Peterson will turn things around quickly. Some will. Some probably won't.

    In terms of others with a seemingly odd Week 3 ranking, I found the spots for the 2015 top quarterback picks to be interesting. Jameis Winston goes to Minnesota, and Marcus Mariota hosts Seattle. Those are some strong defenses that theyíll be facing, and the staff rankings show some differences of opinion. I admit that I originally viewed Mariota as a top-10 guy, but look at some other borderline QB1 choices. Philip Rivers hosts the Chiefs. That might not be fun. Dak Prescott isnít playing great, and heís in Arizona this week. Prescott's overall value can take a hit if he doesnít have a big game, which isnít all that fair, but itís a realistic approach. Some weeks bring so many quarterbacks to choose from, but this isnít one of those weeks.

    At running back, the rankings shift goes beyond Howard and Murray. Houston starter Lamar Miller is way down there as barely a RB2 for a road game at New England, but the Patriots were kind of embarrassed by rookie Kareem Hunt in Week 1. Miller has rushed for 65 and 61 yards in the first two games, a pace for roughly 1,000 on the season, yet we all seemed concerned with him or the matchup or both. Itís not like backup DíOnta Foreman presents the same immediate threat of Cohen and Henry.

    At wide receiver, until we get clarity on the Jordy Nelson situation with the Packers, thereís not going to be right answers for his ranking, along with that of colleagues Davante Adams and even Randall Cobb. Itís a situation not quite like Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. during the first two weeks, since Beckham had the Sunday and Monday night games in that span. Nelson plays a late afternoon game at home on Sunday, so we might not know of his availability by 1 p.m. ET that day. Either way, weíll know before the Green Bay game, and fantasy owners can prepare other choices if needed.

    There are two other wide receivers with interesting rankings, in that they werenít universally ranked by the staff. One is Clevelandís Rashard Higgins, who three of the five rankers regarded as a potential flex choice, while two others disregarded. Thereís no right answer on whether heíll continue to produce, even in the absence of Corey Coleman, but I like his chances in a road game in Indianapolis. The other fellow is Jacksonvilleís Allen Hurns versus teammate Marqise Lee. I barely ranked the latter and kept the former out, but I guess I donít want to rely on Blake Bortles for much of anything. It could be Chad Henne slinginí the pigskin before you even eat breakfast this week. Remember, the Jaguars "host" the Ravens in London this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Donít wait to fill active rosters at 12:55 p.m. ET!
     

  24. #49  
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    How blocking will affect matchups in fantasy football Week 3
    KC Joyner
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/21/17

    The fantasy football world has lagged behind when it comes to effectively measuring the impact blocking has on fantasy production, so I devised a new grading system that uses multiple advanced metrics to project how blocking matchups will impact fantasy football performance in the upcoming week's contests. (The details of the system can be found here.)

    The entire list of the Week 3 matchup grades are posted below, but now let's take a closer look at the teams and players who have the most and least favorable blocking matchups this week.

    Most favorable blocking matchups



    Tennessee Titans (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

    The Titans had one of the best offensive blocking walls last year, and that trait is carrying over to the 2017 campaign. Tennessee's offense rates second in sack percentage allowed (2.7), seventh in pass pressure rate (PPR) and eighth in quarterback contact (QC) percentage (8.5). The Titans' run blocking is equally strong, as Tennessee ranks fifth in yards per rush before first defensive contact (YBCT) (2.8) and eighth in my good blocking productivity (GBP) metric that measures overall run-blocking prowess.

    Seattle's defense has taken a major step backwards this year, as the Seahawks rank 24th in QC rate (23.1), 19th in average time allowed in pocket (TIP) and 28th in YBCT (2.9).

    This contrast should make DeMarco Murray a very strong start option and Derrick Henry a quality flex candidate with RB1 upside in the event Murray's hamstring injury causes Henry to get more carries. It also should push Marcus Mariota into QB1 territory and continue to keep Delanie Walker producing at an upper-tier TE1 pace.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Minnesota Vikings)

    The Vikings' pass rush has been nearly non-existent so far this season, as Minnesota's defense rates 28th in PPR (18.7), 29th in QC (4.7) and 27th in sack percentage (4.0). Tampa Bay's pass blocking was superb last week, as the Buccaneers' offense currently ranks fourth in PPR (17.6), eighth in QC (8.1) and fifth in TIP (2.4).

    Jameis Winston is one of the most vertically inclined passers in the NFL, as he led the league in passes traveling 15 or more yards downfield last season (150) and equaled that pace with 11 passes of that caliber in last week's season opener for the Buccaneers. Look for the Bucs' pass blocking to allow Winston to air the ball out early and often and thus give Winston, DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans a ton of upside potential this week.

    Pittsburgh Steelers (at Chicago Bears)

    Le'Veon Bell has scored only 20.8 fantasy points through the first two weeks of the season, but his struggles haven't been due to sub-par run blocking, as Pittsburgh's 51.6 percent good blocking rate (GBR) placed sixth best in Week 2. The Steelers also have the makings of a mismatch in pass blocking, as they rate first in ESPN Stats & Information's pass protection metric (PPM) and the Bears' defense ranks 28th in QC (7.0) and 25th in TIP (2.4). Add it up, and it means Bell and Antonio Brown should reach their elite fantasy production potential, Ben Roethlisberger has strong QB1 potential and Martavis Bryant is a very good Week 3 flex option.

    Least favorable blocking matchups

    Dallas Cowboys (at Arizona Cardinals)

    The hue and cry out of Dallas this week is Ezekiel Elliott's effort level on chasing defenders down on interception returns, but the bigger concern is the abysmal run blocking performance by the Cowboys' offensive blocking wall. Dallas had an 18.2 percent GBR against Denver, which is the lowest GBR Dallas has posted over the past two seasons. To put that number into more perspective, prior to the Denver game Dallas had posted a GBR of lower than 30 percent only one time since the beginning of the 2016 season.

    That is a not a good place to be when facing a Cardinals defense that ranks fourth in yards allowed per carry (2.8) and allowed a meager 27.0 percent GBR against the Colts last week.

    This is not to suggest benching Elliott, but with the Dallas offense also ranking 20th in QC (12.1) and 18th in TIP (2.3), it may be a good idea for fantasy owners to consider leaving Dak Prescott on the bench if they have a good alternative at that position.

    Denver Broncos (at Buffalo Bills)

    This is the most unfavorable blocking matchup for any offense in Week 3. Denver has mediocre or worse numbers in nearly every pass blocking metric, ranking 20th in PPR (26.7), 27th in QC (19.2), 23rd in sack rate (8.0), 31st in TIP (2.0) and 25th in PPM (45.9). Their run blocking hasn't fared much better, something evidenced by ranking 22nd in GBR (36.1) and 28th in GBP (2.3) in Week 2.

    Those sub-par metrics are a big concern on a road trip against a Buffalo team that ranks ninth in sack rate (8.8) and TIP (2.2) and second in YBCT (0.8).

    These unfavorable numbers push C.J. Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders down to flex consideration, make Demaryius Thomas a WR2 option and should bring Trevor Siemian's numbers back down to earth in Week 3.

    Seattle Seahawks (at Tennessee Titans)

    Seattle came into this season projected to have the worst offensive line in the league, and they have done little to overcome that projection. The Seahawks rank 30th in PPR (39.0), 28th in QC (22.5), 21st in sack rate (7.8), 30th in PPM (43.4) and 27th in YBCT (1.5). The Titans don't have a dominant pass rush, but they do rate fifth in TIP (2.1) and YBCT (1.4). Tennessee also gave up only 4.5 yards per attempt on good blocking plays to Jacksonville last week, a total that was the lowest in Week 2. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and the collection of Seahawks running backs have all disappointed fantasy owners this season, and their Week 3 performance is likely to do little to change that feeling.
     

  25. #50  
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    Week 3 preview: Keep an eye on Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon, Jaguars WRs
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    9/22/17



    The Cincinnati Bengals are going to score a touchdown at Lambeau Field this week. This might sound crazy, but I actually believe they will score several. Lunacy! The Bengals are an obvious mess so far, having scored nary a touchdown in two games and punting aside offensive coordinator Ken Zampese for quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor last week. However, this isn’t a terrible offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton, for all we can say about him, is actually competent, wide receiver A.J. Green is among the best in the game and hopefully this is the week rookie running back Joe Mixon -- or someone in the backfield -- gets a real chance.

    The Packers beat the struggling offense that is the Seahawks in Week 1 and then watched Matt Ryan and the excellent Falcons move up and down and up and down the field on them last Sunday night. The truth is the Bengals aren’t much to look at so far, but as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell notes, it’s darn tough to get into the red zone that often and fail to come away with touchdowns. In fact, it would be historic. And the Packers are the same average-at-best defense that allowed a ton of deep completions last season.

    Fantasy owners know they should definitely play Green this and every week -- at least I hope they do -- and now is the time to buy low, if that’s possible. Do the same with Mixon. We don’t know what Lazor is thinking, but we have seen, in the past, immediate and positive results when teams adjust coordinators in season. I keep trumpeting these rookie running backs because they’re so talented and for various reasons immediate opportunities aren’t always there. The Bengals also have Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. If they fall behind to Aaron Rodgers and crew, perhaps Dalton ends up throwing 40-plus times and Bernard is the beneficiary. But then again, Mixon has more receptions than Bernard so far.

    Ultimately I view what has happened so far to the Bengals as a bit aberrant and I would for just about any offense other than maybe the J-E-T-S. Nobody would be noticing if this happened in November. There seem to be more bad teams in the NFL than good ones and nobody is saying Dalton will lead the Bengals to the playoffs. After five seasons of first-round losses, the Bengals really underachieved last season, but the offense was 13th in yards. If things don’t change, Dalton and coach Marvin Lewis could be among those shipped out. Perhaps we even see AJ McCarron if Dalton doesn’t get on track. But we’re not there yet. It’s two games!

    The Bengals probably won’t have tight end Tyler Eifert this week, but they should be used to that. They have Green and running backs who can play and one has to think that Rodgers, with all his many weapons and in a home game, will put up some points. Watch the Bengals make Sunday a shootout.

    Questionable options: As of this writing, Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson remains a 50-50 proposition to suit up for Sunday’s late afternoon game and obviously if he is active, fantasy owners will want him in lineups. However, it’s quite likely we won’t know by the start of the early afternoon games. Among the still-available wide receivers to keep around as potential starting options in the late games or later in case Nelson sits are Seattle’s Paul Richardson, Cincinnati’s Brandon LaFell, Kansas City’s Chris Conley and Dallas' Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams, or go with Packers backup Geronimo Allison. Not exactly a triumphant crew there. I can’t say as of now if I’d simply go with borderline fantasy options from the 1 p.m. ET games or not, as it’s not really like the Odell Beckham Jr. situation from Week 2, when I wasn’t dealing with it. Beckham played but didn’t do much. In the Sunday night game, we don’t have clarity on whether Washington running back Rob Kelley will go, but Kelley owners should know rookie Samaje Perine is already a threat after getting 21 carries in Week 2. Tight end Jordan Reed is also questionable, but again, his owners should always prepare for the possibility he cannot suit up.

    New York, New York: Speaking of struggling teams, both the Giants and Jets, Jersey’s winless teams, bear watching this week because again, things should improve and fantasy owners don’t seem to be investing. The problems are many, of course. We should expect Beckham in the lineup and perhaps even closer to 100 percent healthy, but Eli Manning needs better protection to have the time to find him. The Giants can’t run the football, as expected, but I could see Beckham getting many chances on quicker, shorter passes, along with Shane Vereen and Evan Engram, in an effort to avoid Philadelphia’s pass rush. With the Jets, they strangely announced they’re going with a trio of running backs and ignoring how good Bilal Powell was last season. He’s scheduled to share with Matt Forte and newly relevant Elijah McGuire. Well, not relevant yet, but take notice that he’s even in this picture. The Jets also could have the services of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for the first time this month and he could become relevant in deep leagues right away.

    Good morning, London! And finally we remind fantasy owners yet again that sometimes the second game of the NFL week will not start around 1 p.m. ET on Sunday (you know, since there’s always a Thursday game). This week over in jolly England the Ravens and Jaguars will be sending America’s best -- well, something like that -- so the first thing to know is get your lineups in early. How many Ravens and Jaguars will be in those lineups? Well, the only guaranteed play is rookie running back Leonard Fournette and many will look to force Javorius Allen in as well, but I admit to being at least a bit intrigued by each team’s wide receivers. Jeremy Maclin has scored a touchdown in each game and Mike Wallace, who annually gets sent to free agency in fantasy leagues around this time, has barely been targeted. But Wallace annually ends up with numbers. Last season he topped 1,000 receiving yards. For the Jags, nobody should rely on Blake Bortles, but Allen Hurns has a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season to his name -- with Bortles at QB -- and Marqise Lee could be breaking out. Perhaps it can’t happen now with Bortles or Chad Henne, but look, we’ll all be watching and with set lineups anyway, right?
     

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