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Thread: Fantasy Football News 2018

  1. #1 Fantasy Football News 2018 
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    Breaking down the film: Is David Johnson only an RB2 now?


    Matt Bowen
    ESPN PLUS

    On Sunday, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson caught a touchdown pass in the loss to the Chicago Bears. But with only 10 receptions on the season and subpar production in the run game, is it time for fantasy managers to worry about Johnson's usage and overall fit in Mike McCoy's offense? Let's hit on Johnson's sliding value, the rising production of Falcons rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, Kerryon Johnson's 100-yard night, Mike Williams in L.A. and more.

    Here are the Week 3 fantasy takeaways ...

    Should fantasy managers have legit concern over David Johnson's numbers?

    The route concept that produced the touchdown grab for Johnson was a smart call. Remove the outside cornerback on the post, send an underneath target to the flat and release Johnson -- out of the backfield -- on a corner route. That was good for a 21-yard score. However, Johnson's three other receptions went for a total of just 9 yards, and he was shut down by the Bears' nasty front seven, finishing with only 31 yards on 12 carries.


    Through three weeks, Johnson totaled 63 yards receiving, and he averaged a lowly 3.4 yards per carry. That's a problem. And I don't quite understand why McCoy hasn't featured Johnson more as a receiving threat in the game plan. I'm talking about isolation routes or concepts that use Johnson underneath to get those matchups versus linebackers in space. We know the skill set is there.
    With a Week 4 matchup against the Seahawks, the possibility of the Cardinals starting rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and running behind a below-average Cardinals offensive line, Johnson will slide in the ranks. Until we see a true effort from McCoy to script matchups for Johnson in the passing game, he's looking more like an RB2.

    Get Falcons rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley into your Week 4 lineups
    I talked about Ridley here last week, with the rook catching four of five targets for 64 yards and a score versus the Panthers' defense. That put him on the fantasy radar given the jump in target volume, along with the route running that popped on the film. But after Ridley roasted the Saints' secondary on Sunday for 147 yards receiving and three touchdowns? Yeah, it's time to get the former Alabama star into your lineup.


    Ridley caught seven of a team-high eight targets, and that route running was clean again. Just go back to the double move in the red zone -- stop-and-start speed there. Or the fade route for a 75-yard score -- shake and go.
    With 13 targets in the past two games, it's clear that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has developed some real trust with Ridley. And he'll continue seeing one-on-one matchups opposite Julio Jones -- especially inside the 20-yard line. That's why I'm moving Ridley up into the WR3/flex range this week with an upcoming matchup against the Bengals.

    Browns TE David Njoku back in the mix with Baker Mayfield at QB?
    I dropped Njoku down to the TE2 range heading into the Browns' Week 3 matchup with the Jets. And while Njoku caught only two passes for 36 yards, it's the offensive tempo generated by Mayfield, paired with a Browns game plan, that has me thinking about bumping the tight end back into the TE1 mix.

    With Mayfield, the Thursday night call sheet resembled his passing game at Oklahoma: the quick three-step routes, the inside vertical throws, play-action and a sprinkle of RPOs. More shotgun alignments too.
    Given Mayfield's ability to anticipate those throwing windows inside of the numbers, Njoku has more upside with the rookie QB running the show. Yes, the second-year pro can win underneath on option routes, stick-outs and shallow crossers. But it's the inside seam routes/verticals that can produce TE1 numbers with Mayfield throwing the ball.

    Rookie RB Kerryon Johnson starting to emerge in Detroit

    Running behind that upgraded -- and healthy -- offensive front in Detroit, Johnson looked every bit the part of the No.1 back in Detroit, totaling 110 yards on 18 touches. And his style matches what I saw on the college tape at Auburn. It's the natural patience to find running lanes, the smooth cutting ability and more finishing power that you would expect.
    I truly believe coach Matt Patricia wants to see run-pass balance with this Detroit team. The only thing holding me back on Johnson is the volume. With LeGarrette Blount in the mix and Theo Riddick as the passing down target, Johnson will be sharing the ball. But I also view the rookie as a potential three-down player in Detroit.

    For now, Johnson should give managers flex value in a Week 4 matchup with the Cowboys.

    The QB run game continues to boost Cam Newton's numbers

    When the Panthers hired Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator, there were some questions about the volume Newton would see on designed QB runs. However, through three weeks, Newton has already carried the ball 28 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
    Sure, Newton will always pick up some yards on the ground when he pulls the ball down to escape pressure. But I'm more focused on the QB run schemes that have shown up on the film in Weeks 1 and 2 and again on Sunday during the Panthers' win over the Bengals. Newton scored on a run/pass boot play in the red zone and then put up another touchdown run on a power-read scheme, with the backside guard pulling through the hole as a lead blocker.
    Based on the numbers we've seen to start the season, fantasy managers should bank on Newton carrying the rock. And when the Panthers push the ball into the tight red zone, why wouldn't Turner call on Newton? He's still the best goal-line runner in the NFL given his monster frame and body control on contact. Good luck stopping that.

    Chris Carson's volume tells the story in Week 3


    In Week 2, Seahawks rookie Rashaad Penny finished with 10 carries to only six for Carson. But after Carson piled up 34 total touches in the win over the Cowboys -- for 124 yards and a touchdown -- he looks like the guy for now.

    Yes, Carson produced a long run of just 13 yards, and he averaged only 3.2 yards per rush on a whopping 32 carries. But it's the volume we have to focus on with Carson, paired with a physical, no-hesitation running style that sells under Pete Carroll.
    I do believe Penny can develop into a No.1 for the Seahawks; the talent is there. But Carson can get downhill, he is powerful on contact and he has the vision to bend the ball back off the inside zone in the Seahawks' system. That works for an offense that has limitations in the passing game with Doug Baldwin's injury. Plus, with Penny seeing just three touches in Sunday's game, Carson is the play for fantasy managers in a positive Week 4 matchup against the Cardinals.

    Bump up Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams in the ranks

    After Williams caught four of seven targets for 81 yards and two touchdown grabs in the loss to the Rams, I need to give him a boost in my weekly ranks.
    The former first-round pick has the frame (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) to shield defenders from the ball. And that showed up on the deep post route he ran for a score against the Rams. Gain inside leverage and simply pin the defender to the outside.
    Now, Williams isn't seeing a ton of volume, with only 15 targets through three games. However, he's cashed in on those opportunities, catching 11 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns. And he will get more looks with Philip Rivers' aggressive style. The Chargers' quarterback will take shots and challenge tight windows. Williams should jump into that WR3 territory, with more value in non-PPR scoring formats.

    Stick with 49ers RB Matt Breida after the Jimmy Garoppolo injury

    The knee injury to Garoppolo will hit the value of the 49ers' skill players, but I'm sticking with Breida as a flex starter, with lower-tier RB2 value in deeper leagues. Breida posted 117 total yards on just 13 touches in the loss to the Chiefs. Plus, he's a really good fit for the 49ers' run game under Kyle Shanahan. Love the system too. Outside zone and old-school power schemes -- with some window dressing to spice it up.
    Going back to my tape study of Breida after Week 2, the running back has the wiggle to make defenders miss, and he can get through the hole when there is daylight to attack. I see some juice to his game, especially on those zone runs where he can press the ball to the second level.
    Yes, Alfred Morris will see his touches in the 49ers' game plan, but I'm looking at the explosive-play ability of Breida and the added numbers he can scoop up on screens/underneath routes.

    The upside of Bengals WR Tyler Boyd

    After catching six of nine targets for 91 yards and a touchdown on Sept. 13, Boyd racked up 132 yards and another score on Sunday versus the Panthers, hauling in six of seven targets.

    Look, he's a slick route runner. In and out of breaks with speed and finds the open windows too. With 15 grabs on 21 targets this season -- for 249 yards -- Boyd is becoming a consistent option for quarterback Andy Dalton in Bill Lazor's offensive system.
    With the injury to A.J. Green, Boyd could see a sizable jump in the ranks if the Bengals' No.1 can't dress in Week 4 against the Falcons. But even if Green is a go for Sunday, Boyd should start in all league formats in that WR3/flex range. And, like Ridley, when you play opposite a legit star at wide receiver, you avoid the bracket looks and combo coverages on money downs. Win the matchup.
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    Week 3 review: Should you be concerned about Tom Brady and Andrew Luck?

    KC Joyner
    ESPN PLUS

    This week's breakdown looks at whether pass blocking is to blame for Tom Brady's and Andrew Luck's woes; the state of the Saints' run blocking and how that impacts the rest-of-season value of Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram; whether Chris Carson can now be trusted as a weekly starter after his big game against Dallas -- and more.


    The Patriots have a disastrous downfield passing game, but don't blame the blocking

    Tom Brady had 7.5 fantasy points against Detroit, his fifth-lowest single-game fantasy point total since 2014, but what his fantasy managers should be more concerned about is the Patriots' complete lack of a vertical passing attack. Brady entered Week 3 ranked 20th among quarterbacks in vertical fantasy points (10.3) and fell to 27th after his 0.5 vertical fantasy points against the Lions.


    Brady's lack of production did not result from poor pass blocking; he had the fourth-highest average time in pocket on vertical passes in Week 3 (2.8 seconds on aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield). It also wasn't due to a lack of aggressiveness, as Brady's 12.4 air yards per attempt was the highest mark in Week 3 among quarterbacks who started and finished their games.


    The real issue is that the team hasn't adjusted to losing Brandin Cooks. He accounted for 43 percent of Brady's stretch vertical attempts (aerials thrown 20 or more yards downfield) last season, and the Patriots simply don't have anyone to replace him.


    That could change, though, because the Patriots soon will have a receiving corps that consists of Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman to go along with James White and Rex Burkhead catching passes out of the backfield. If those players perform to their respective talent levels and Brady continues to get a ton of time in the pocket, this abysmal night will be an anomaly. Fantasy managers who can trade low for Brady should strongly consider doing so, while those with Brady on a roster should stay patient and await the many high-upside days on the horizon.

    Andrew Luck's shoulder might be the issue, but it might also be that he doesn't trust his offensive line to give him enough time to throw vertical passes


    When the Colts sent out Jacoby Brissett to throw the game-ending Hail Mary pass against Philadelphia, it was just another signal to Andrew Luck's fantasy managers that Luck's throwing power may have fallen off significantly after his shoulder injury. This apprehension is more than justified, with Luck having the lowest air yards per attempt this season (5.4) and the second-fewest vertical fantasy points among quarterbacks who have started all three games (5.3).


    While it is possible that Luck's shoulder issues have caused this decline, at least some of the blame must go to the Colts' offensive line. At first glance, it looks like this group is doing its job; Luck has been pressured on only 22.7 percent of his dropbacks this season, a mark that rates seventh best per ESPN Stats & Information. Still, it should be noted that Luck's average of 2.1 seconds in pocket ranks 24th among qualifying quarterbacks. One of the main factors in the low time in pocket is the lack of time Luck has on vertical throws. His 2.3 seconds per vertical pass dropback is tied for third lowest in that category.


    Whether Luck has lost some on his fastball, he seems to be rushing some of his passes and may not be throwing deep because he isn't convinced the blocking will be there to allow him to do so. Until the Colts start showing improvement here, Luck may be stuck operating a passing offense that relies too heavily on dink-and-dunk throws. That means the days of Luck frequently contending for 20 or more fantasy points might not be in the cards for the foreseeable future.

    Consider accepting monster trade deals on Drew Brees because the Saints' run-blocking metrics indicate that a return to last season's run-heavy approach might be coming


    One of the most shocking findings in this year's run-blocking metrics is how poorly New Orleans fared through the first two weeks of the season. The Saints ranked last in my good blocking productivity (GBP) metric after Week 2, and their 1.7 mark in that category made them the only team in the league with a GBP lower than 2.0. That lack of quality run blocking was likely a major factor in the Saints giving Alvin Kamara a mere 21 carries in those contests.


    Kamara gained only 66 yards on 16 carries against the Falcons in Week 3, but the Saints' run blocking was actually a lot better than that number would suggest; they posted a 56.0 percent mark in my good blocking rate (GBR) metric and a 4.6 GBP. Some of those strong totals had to do with an Atlanta rush defense that was tied for 23rd in GBP after two weeks (3.6) and really doesn't effectively handle a power rushing attack. But it also could indicate that the Saints are finally hitting their run-blocking stride after two subpar games.


    If the latter is the case, Kamara's value could stay at its sky-high level even with the return of Mark Ingram, who should have RB2 value in many contests. If the ground game gets back to last season's level, New Orleans could return to its 2017 run-heavy formula, a factor that would drop Drew Brees' fantasy production back down to earth. That could make Brees a great trade option for fantasy managers who can get a monster trade offer for him.

    Chris Carson's fantasy managers should not yet buy into the Seahawks' run-game turnaround


    Carson's fantasy managers finally had a reason to rejoice. His 20.4 points against Dallas were nearly double the 11.3 combined fantasy points from Weeks 1 and 2.


    Before chalking that scoring pace as the new normal for Carson, it's worth noting that the Seahawks' blocking issues do not appear to have been resolved.


    Seattle graded out 31st in my post-Week 2 overall blocking grades, a
    nd its 2.1 GBP against Dallas was actually equal to the 2.1 season-long GBP mark the Seahawks had coming into that contest (which placed 31st in that category).


    So how did Carson do so well if the blocking was so terrible? A lot of it had to do with the scoreboard. The Cowboys' offense was so bad that Seattle never trailed in the contest. The Seahawks had nine drives with a lead, and seven of those drives occurred when Seattle was leading by 11 or more points. It's easy to be patient with the ground game with a double-digit lead, but Seattle's lack of blocking prowess, even in favorable game circumstances, strongly suggests the Seahawks haven't solved the blocking woes. It also makes Carson a potential candidate for a sell-high trade.


    Quick notes


    Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount are benefiting from top-10-caliber run blocking. The Lions' offense ranked 12th in GBP with a 3.7 mark after Week 2 and notched a 3.8 GBP against the Patriots, which should move Detroit into the top 10 in that category at the end of Week 3. This opened the door for Johnson to end the Lions' nearly five-year drought without a 100-yard rusher in a game. It also should mean that fantasy managers can count on frequent double-digit point totals from these two backs.


    The Falcons allowed a zero percent pass pressure rate on vertical throws against New Orleans, despite the Saints sending a blitz on 71.4 percent of Matt Ryan's vertical dropbacks. This caliber of pass blocking permitted Ryan to air it out to Calvin Ridley early and often and should keep Ryan in the QB1 discussion many times the rest of this season.


    The Patriots' rush defense has been abysmal. It came into this contest ranked 28th in GBP allowed (4.0) and had the aforementioned 3.8 GBP against Detroit. New England had this kind of problem early last season and turned the trend around. They could mimic that improvement again this season, but fantasy managers who have Dolphins or Colts running backs should still be happy to see the Patriots' rush defense on the schedule during the next two weeks.
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  3. #3  
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    Fantasy stock watch: Will Bengals continue to impress?

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN PLUS

    Despite coming off a Week 3 loss, things are going well for the Cincinnati Bengals and those who rely on them for fantasy purposes. The Bengals travel to Atlanta for an intriguing matchup with the Falcons on Sunday, and while most will dismiss their chances because of the way Matt Ryan and his weapons are performing, stock is definitely up.


    Quarterback Andy Dalton, running back Giovani Bernard, wide receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end Tyler Eifert are each among the most added players in ESPN standard leagues, which is a bit unusual for one team more than a few weeks into any season, especially when it did not win its previous game and their second-most rostered fantasy option is injured. Still, the Bengals are scoring nearly 30 points per game, and Joe Mixon could return next week.



    The Falcons, for all they do well offensively, permit the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and third-most PPR points to running backs, so it makes sense why so many fantasy managers would flock to their players for this week, and the October schedule includes the Steelers and Chiefs too. Those defenses are permitting quite a few passing yards, as only the Saints permit more fantasy points to quarterbacks.


    Dalton might never return to top-10 fantasy status, as his 2013 campaign was the outlier, but he is fine as a QB2. Bernard keeps producing RB2 games with Mixon out. Boyd is blossoming, though I stop short of WR2 status. It might be coming, even with A.J. Green there. Eifert has not scored a touchdown yet, but with so many top-10 tight ends injured, he warrants interest when suited up, because touchdowns are likely pending.


    This week we combine our Stock Watch with thoughts on what to watch this weekend, and the Bengals certainly qualify for each angle. Four of their key players are rostered in at least 10 percent more standard leagues than a week ago, with Boyd the No.1 attraction, going from 18.3 percent to 60.6 percent. Green is still awesome, while Dalton, Bernard and Eifert have a history of relevance. Mixon is someone to trade for. Can the offensive numbers continue in Atlanta on Sunday? Time will tell, but I do not see why not!


    Stock up


    New Orleans Saints: Perhaps it is only the early schedule talking, but Drew Brees nearly saw his incredible run of 14 consecutive seasons as a top-10 quarterback end last season, and currently he is playing awesome football. He was ninth in QB scoring and 11th in touchdown passes. Now he has Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas each on pace to shatter the all-time record for catches in a season. Please do not forget about running back Mark Ingram II; this is the last week he serves a suspension, and he will play a key role in the offense when he returns and should be an RB2. He should not be a free agent in your leagues.


    Perception of more running backs catching passes: Well, Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Chris Thompsonare heavily involved in the passing game, and among the top 30 in overall receptions so far, but it is not as if some new league-wide trend has occurred. Those are the only four running backs with 18 or more catches. Last season, the four running backs in the top 30 of catches were Le'Veon Bell, Kamara, McCaffrey and the oddly absent Duke Johnson Jr. That is it. It is worth watching to see if James White, Jalen Richard, Javorius Allen and Nyheim Hines keep their pass-catching momentum going, but ultimately perception is not reality.


    Forgotten tight ends: Injuries to top-10 options Greg Olsen, Delanie Walkerand Evan Engram have forced fantasy managers to look elsewhere at the position, and luckily for us, Oakland's Jared Cook, Tampa Bay's O.J. Howardand Indianapolis's Eric Ebron have stepped up. Cook has disappointed before; in 2016 when paired with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, he was supposed to emerge, but managed three receptions per game, and one overall touchdown. Howard had a quiet rookie season but easily leapfrogged Cameron Brate on the depth chart this summer. Ebron has taken advantage of the Jack Doyle injury, though I remain skeptical this lasts. Howard should be a star and has top-five tight end potential. Get him now before another big game in Week 4.


    No. 2 receivers on teams with stars: Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster is a WR2 and threatening for more, even though Antonio Brown is still great. Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley is scoring the touchdowns that Julio Jones is not. Boyd is rising in Cincy even with Green thriving, Mike Williams is playing like the top-10 NFL draft pick he was a season ago alongside Keenan Allen and Houston's Will Fuller V is a consistent scoring threat even with DeAndre Hopkins doing his thing. There is ample reason to think these young receivers continue to flourish, whereas in the past it sure was tough for wide receivers on teams with a bona fide top-10 guy to succeed in fantasy.


    Stock down

    San Francisco 49ers: The season-ending knee injury to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo should have fantasy managers concerned. Nothing against sophomore C.J. Beathard, but the same confidence does not exist, which is why receivers Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin have taken their place on the most dropped list. It will be interesting to see what happens with running backs Matt Breida, currently tied with Ezekiel Elliott atop the rushing leaders, and Alfred Morris. Will the 49ers adopt a safe offensive philosophy and run the football? Can they pull it off?


    Dallas Cowboys not named Ellliott: Dak Prescott remains rostered in roughly a third of ESPN standard leagues despite averaging a woeful 184 passing yards over his past 13 games, with 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Say he simply lacks weapons, but this was a problem during the 2017 season when he failed to throw for 200 yards in seven of his final 10 games and had better options. Avoid Dallas receivers. Elliott is the lone Cowboy rostered in more than 31 percent of leagues for a reason, and he can still lead the NFL in rushing without the statistical aid of teammates.


    Chicago Bears passing game: A home game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers awaits, and one would think the Chicago defense will create turnovers, since Ryan Fitzpatrick is so eager to comply. That is how Fitz got his 400 passing yards last week, as the Steelers took a big lead on his mistakes, and he played catchup. The Chicago offense, however, is stagnant. It figures to step up this Sunday, but Mitchell Trubisky has not made stars out of Allen Robinsonand Trey Burton, while Tarik Cohen has done little in the passing game. I have to think that changes on Sunday, or Robinson falls from WR2 territory and Burton and Cohen show up on many fantasy free agent lists. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, almost has to continue to play great now that Jameis Winston is off his suspension, and we know that is not likely.


    Additional players to watch this weekend

    Quarterbacks
    1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
    2. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
    3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
    4. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
    5. Case Keenum, Denver Broncos


    Notes: Brady tends to torch the Miami defense whenever he wants, but the current Brady lacks weapons. Or does he? Even if Josh Gordon is not a factor, I cannot get too worried here, and Julian Edelman returns in a week. ... The Watson we saw dominate last season is not this one. He has not faced the Colts, but if he fails to produce big stats this weekend, many will look elsewhere. ... Luck, by the way, is No. 31 in yards per attempt, barely ahead of now-benched Sam Bradford in Arizona. I have to say this version of Luck is not at all impressive. ... Mayfield should tear up the Raiders, a team with no pass rush, even though it created that issue. Mayfield's popularity will continue to rise, and he is already the most added QB in ESPN leagues, but he is still a rookie.


    Running backs


    1. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
    2. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos
    3. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
    4. Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles
    5. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
    Notes: Johnson became the first Lions running back since prohibition to rush for 100 yards. OK, not that extreme, but we need to see another game in which the rookie is the main ball carrier before proclaiming him a safe flex choice. ... Lindsay earned an ejection from his Week 3 game, which might or might not have derailed his progress as the team's top option. Royce Freeman has not been awful. ... McCoy claims he will return from a rib injury, and now that a seemingly competent, albeit rookie, quarterback is in place, let us see how that helps him. Josh Allen is at least a threat to throw downfield. ... Ajayi also figures to suit up after missing a game, but note the Titans -- and the Eagles -- are among the stingiest teams in allowing fantasy points to running backs. This appears to be a low-scoring affair, with each club time-sharing at running back. ... Finally, Carson had 13 rushing attempts the first two weeks, then 32 in Week 3. Which is real?


    Wide receivers/tight ends


    1. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
    2. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
    3. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
    4. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
    5. Name a New England Patriot


    Notes: Ridley has four touchdowns in two games. Of course, we have to watch. ... Jeffery figures to make his season debut, and while he might not be a safe WR2 anymore -- and he was not last season, although he was hurt -- he should matter. ... Fitzgerald will not avoid the most dropped list for long if he averages four catches per game. Rookie Josh Rosen should throw the ball downfield. ... Perhaps Doug Baldwin returns to the field this weekend, but Lockett has scored a touchdown in each game so far. That should count for something! ... Rob Gronkowski is in a tie for fifth among tight ends in catches and is seventh in yards. He should destroy the Dolphins. If not, it is a problem and we probably rank Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz ahead of him moving forward. In addition, does Josh Gordon play? What if the Patriots offense really is, well, simply average?
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    Fantasy stock watch: How Mark Ingram's return affects other Saints' values

    Eric Karabell
    ESPN PLUS


    New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II returns from a four-game suspension for Monday's home game with the Washington Redskins and while he is rostered in nearly all ESPN standard leagues, and should be, I get the feeling fantasy managers do not have high expectations, and others, for selfish reasons, wish he would not return. After all, Alvin Kamara is the highest scorer in PPR formats, Michael Thomas is tops among wide receivers and sixth overall and quarterback Drew Brees, after a relatively disappointing statistical line last season, is back on pace for more than 5,000 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes. Why mess with a good thing, right?



    Stock is up for these and other Saints, as even kicker Wil Lutz and tight end Benjamin Watson make appearances on the most added list, and it should be as well for Ingram, who finished last season as fantasy's No. 6 running back in PPR formats. Kamara, of course, was third. The Saints run so many offensive plays in comparison to other teams and do so in such an efficient manner that two running backs can coexist and thrive, and it seems relevant to point out Ingram's season was not a fluke. In fact, he divided his 12 touchdowns equally among the final three months, and usage remained consistent.


    Ingram sure seems to me like a RB2 for Week 5 and in the end-of-season rankings, even though I see that I might be alone in that assessment. Sure, nobody is saying he finishes as the No. 6 running back again. Kamara has gotten even better this season, especially as a receiver, and so has Thomas, on pace to break records. However, entering Week 4, the Saints had failed to run the ball effectively, as Mike Gillislee was a bust. The offense really relied on the passing game, and then Kamara ran all over the Giants to upset that narrative. Still, Ingram is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons and averaged 5 yards per tote in that span. Why would the Saints not use him? He might not approach 50 receptions, but he is going to matter.


    Some have noted that what Kamara and Thomas are doing statistically is going to be tough to sustain for four months and I tend to agree. That does not mean fantasy managers need to sell high on their value, however. Kamara probably cannot surpass 2,000 total yards and amass 24 touchdowns, with or without the presence of Ingram, but 1,800 yards and 16 scores, sure. Thomas seems unlikely to catch 168 passes, as the NFL record is 143 and that is a big difference. Brees, however, has done this before and that is why Ingram returning in Week 5 is a perfect fit. Sure, blame Ingram for why Kamara and Thomas slow their awesome statistical trends down if it makes you feel better. It was happening anyway. Kamara and Thomas can still end up the top PPR fantasy options at their positions.


    In fact, inclusion might be the word around the New Orleans offense moving forward, and the Week 6 bye should help in that respect. Ingram probably does not get a full workload this Monday. After the off week he should. Wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith have something to offer. Ginn is an obvious deep threat who has scored two touchdowns, but is not seeing consistent targets. Meredith scored a touchdown on his only target of Week 3, and is slowly returning to full health after last season's ACL tear. He should cut into Kamara's catches as well and perhaps glean future WR4 value. Watson is a surprising vertical threat and should look like a top-10 tight end at times this season. I think the Saints will keep putting up numbers, but others will get in on the fun as well, so fantasy managers should prepare.


    Stock up

    Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots: The other high-profile player returning from suspension, Edelman was not Ingram during the 2017 season. In fact, he did not play after tearing an ACL in the preseason. The reason fantasy managers are so excited about getting Edelman back is obvious; Tom Brady has completed more than a quarter of his season passes to running back James White, whose stock is also up. Edelman caught 98 passes for 1,106 yards in 2016. He was not a touchdown maker, but was a WR2 for PPR anyway. I would activate him immediately and expect a key role.


    Pick a Los Angeles Rams wide receiver: Quarterback Jared Goff is playing no favorites among his trio of wideouts and while it can be frustrating in fantasy and especially DFS in guessing which one will have the big game at which time, do not fight it. Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are each on pace for target shares that would have ranked just outside the top 10 last season. Any or all of them could reach 100 receptions. Cooks has the most yards but, as the top vertical threat, the most risk of inconsistency, and has scored only one touchdown. Still, I rank each receiver at the back end of WR2 status each week and for the rest of the season and if you roster more than one, go ahead and activate them each week with confidence until something alters.


    Jared Cook, superstar tight end, Oakland Raiders: For a player who has never reached 100 targets, 55 receptions or six touchdowns in a season, Cook sure gets discussed quite a bit. He had chances to star as a Titan, Ram and notably with Aaron Rodgers as a Packer, and never secured safe top-10 tight end status. Well, entering Week 5 he leads all tight ends in PPR scoring. He has more catches and targets and 100 more receiving yards than heralded teammate Amari Cooper. No, this does not seem sustainable but in a bleak world of tight ends in which half the top-10 choices from draft day are injured, Cook has saved us. Finally.


    Baltimore Ravens passing game: You might not believe this but Joe Flacco, who only once has surpassed 4,000 passing yards in a season, is on pace for more than 5,000. I do not think he gets there but John Brown is doing all he can to help, as he is 14th in the league in receiving yards. Tampa Bay's DeSean Jackson and Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (because, of course he is) are the only ones averaging more than Brown's 22.5 yards per catch. I like the schedule for this franchise, with December games looming against the Falcons, Chiefs and Buccaneers.


    Stock down

    Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: The No. 11 choice in ESPN ADP remains universally rostered only because he is featured on ESPN's undroppable list. Hey, complain about it all you like but there is a reason ESPN has such a list. You should not be dropping Fournette. It is annoying that he hurt a hamstring, missed a few games and then hurt it again, and we might not see him until November, but he is an obvious difference-maker. Add T.J. Yeldonand activate him. I grant you that Fournette showed signs of not being durable as a rookie when he missed a few games, but stuff happens. Keep him around.


    Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks: I noted several weeks ago that Wilson and a few other quarterbacks were not accruing rushing yards as expected, and how it is a big deal. Wilson has rushed for 42 yards after four games. One does not need to be a trained mathematician to realize he will not get to last season's 586 yards at this pace. In fact, Wilson has averaged more than 30 rushing yards per game in a season five of the past six seasons. He is currently at 10.5 rushing yards per game. The return of Doug Baldwin has not helped. This offense is 26th in total yards and team harmony appears to be a problem. Chris Carson cannot stay healthy and Mike Davis easily leapfrogged promising rookie Rashaad Penny on the depth chart. It seems unwise to covet Seahawks for fantasy at this point.


    The promise of other AFC East teams: How quickly things changed in this division, as if anyone really worried about Brady's Patriots. The Miami Dolphinsfizzled after a 3-0 start and could not move the football last week, and several of their players are on the most dropped list, starting with running back Kenyan Drake. New York Jets rookie Sam Darnold beat the Detroit Lions in Week 1 and his team scored 48 points! It has scored 41 points since and every Jet is on the most cut list. I cannot imagine any Buffalo Bills were popular in fantasy, but the franchise came down to earth after the Minnesota Vikings shocker. Brady and the Patriots should cruise to the division title and pile on the points when facing these "rivals."


    Additional players to watch this weekend

    Quarterbacks



    1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
    2. Alex Smith, Washington Redskins
    3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
    4. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
    5. C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers


    Notes: Fantasy's top quarterback faces the top defense. Fantasy managers who want to bench Mahomes for Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford or even his opponent Blake Bortles are not overthinking this. Bortles gets to face one of the worst defenses in the same game! I just cannot wait to see what Mahomes does next. ... Smith comes off the bye week for a nice matchup at New Orleans. Yes, everyone is underrating him, yet again. ... Rodgers is the No. 15 quarterback in fantasy scoring. Are people leaving him active due to reputation? His knee is clearly a problem and he has not reached 20 fantasy points the past three weeks. He has yet to throw for 300 yards. Another game like that and perhaps there will be panic. ... Mariota lit up the Eagles for 30 fantasy points. We know he is athletic and adds value with his feet. Do it again and keep Corey Davis well targeted, too. ... Beathard is far from the fantasy radar but it seems relevant that his first start resulted in more fantasy points than Jimmy Garoppolo was averaging. Those out on the 49ers offense might have erred.


    Running backs



    1. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
    2. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
    3. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
    4. Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans
    5. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos


    Notes: As with Fournette, Cook is still dealing with a hamstring injury suffered weeks ago and perhaps the Vikings should simply sit him, especially since the Eagles stop the run. I have little faith in Latavius Murray if he starts this week. ... We do not know for sure if Devonta Freeman is over his knee injury, but Coleman seems to have earned at least a timeshare. ... Speaking of, we must see something in Jones that the Packers personnel do not. Perhaps this is the week Jones is blessed with 20 touches. Yeah, right. ... Lewis is clearly the top Titans running back for fantasy purposes, but might not be worthy of more than flex attention. This week's foe is not great. ... Which Denver running back can you trust? This is not like Rams wide receivers, though both Lindsay and Royce Freeman are playing fine. Will someone emerge?


    Wide receivers/tight ends



    1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
    2. Geronimo Allison, Green Bay Packers
    3. Will Fuller V/Keke Coutee, Houston Texans
    4. Larry Fitzgerald/Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
    5. Tyler Boyd/Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals


    Notes: Brown enters Week 5 on pace for barely 1,000 receiving yards and at 9.4 yards per catch. Yawn. Quincy Enunwa and Dede Westbrook have more receiving yards. We love JuJu Smith-Schuster but please bring the old Antonio Brown back! ... Allison is dealing with a concussion and he might sit this one out. The fact that he has reached 64 receiving yards in each contest is impressive. Allison and Randall Cobb could sit, making it Marquez Valdes-Scantling time. This seems like a problem. ... Fuller is a touchdown machine but he is also not guaranteed to play. Coutee put on a show in Week 4. We could predict more fun times but probably not if DeAndre Hopkins and Fuller are ahead of him. ... If the Cardinals acknowledge the rebuilding process at quarterback with Josh Rosen, perhaps Kirk emerges as well. I hate thinking Fitzgerald goes from three consecutive 100-catch campaigns to 50 in his final season. Yuck. ... Watch the Tylers on the Bengals. Boyd has more catches, targets and yards than A.J. Green. Kroft steps up, presumably because C.J. Uzomah is in play as well, now that another Tyler (Eifert) is done.
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