Chatting Up Players of Interest
Just to dive deeper into players of interest, Upon Further Review drills down about the current and future value.
Marion Grice, RB, Cardinals
We don’t have much to work with as far as Grice’s body of NFL work is concerned, but his college scouting reports suggest a slightly bigger version of Andre Ellington: shifty runner, capable receiver, a little soft to carry a full between-the-tackles workload. On the bright side he’s fresh, so if Ellington’s hip injury prevents him from playing Grice is ready to step in. He’s definitely more Ellington-like than Stepfan Taylor, but like with Ellington Taylor may wind up swiping goal line looks. Of course, this may all be moot if Ellington plays through his hip injury—but best be prepared. And then there’s Arizona’s schedule, which is the second-worst for running backs the rest of the way. Do you start an iffy Ellington with limited practice reps against the Chiefs, Rams, Seahawks or Niners? Do you trust Grice and his 14 NFL touches against any of those defenses? These are the tough decisions Ellington and/or Grice owners will be facing down the playoff stretch. As an Ellington owner in a couple leagues, and unfortunately a Grice owner in none, I’m hoping that my running back bench depth at least affords me an alternative to Ellington’s tough schedule—if he even plays at all.
Kendall Wright, WR, Titans
Justin Hunter goes on IR after taking a wicked shot to the spleen; in the very game he exits, Wright goes off for 7-132-1. Correlation? Will Wright be the Titans’ go-to pass-catcher the rest of the way sans Hunter? Well, maybe but the correlation isn’t direct. Wright was heavily targeted prior to Hunter’s injury anyway, plus he’s more of a possession guy as opposed to the home run threat Hunter brought to the table. There will certainly be more opportunities for Wright, but I don’t know that he bumps up dramatically. Nate Washington, on the other hand, saw a season-high nine targets in Week 13, which he turned into a season-high five catches, 61 yards and his second touchdown of the year. Washington has maybe one season (74-1,023-7 in 2011) as a fantasy factor, but he stands to benefit more than Wright over the next few games. Enough to be a fantasy factor? Considering the Titans will see three relatively fantasy-friendly secondaries in the Giants, Jets and Jaguars before closing out with the Colts, Washington definitely has upside. As for Wright… well, he was looking good anyway. Wright also has a small cracked bone in his hand that is considered day-to-day that could impact his play.
Robert Woods, WR, Bills
No question, I was a big Woods fan coming out of USC. In fact, I traded back into the first round of my dynasty league draft to add Woods to my roster. Things have changed, and Woods is no longer on my roster, so his recent upswing is taking place on someone else’s team. What’s his prognosis going forward? Is he the 11-target, 9-118-1 from Week 12? Or is he more like the guy who didn’t score until Week 6, with three or fewer catches in four of the five games preceding his first touchdown of the year? Unfortunately, it looks like good Woods is more aberration than fact. Think about it: the Bills have quarterback issues, and Kyle Orton isn’t necessarily the long-term answer that makes Woods a vital fantasy component. Sammy Watkins will be the Bills’ WR1, meaning Woods’ fate is a WR2 on what will likely continue to be a run-first offense—and an offense with quarterback questions, no less. I still like Woods, but it’s tough to see him cracking a top 50 list of receivers given his quarterback and standing in the team’s passing game pecking order.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars
The Jaguars overhauled their receiving corps in conjunction with the arrival of franchise quarterback Blake Bortles, and the prize gem was expected to be Lee. He started well, turning 10 targets into 6-62 in the season opener—but that was dramatically overshadowed by fellow rookie Allen Hurns’ monster 4-110-2 in the same game. Another rookie, Allen Robinson, also outperformed Lee for much of the season before his rookie campaign ended prematurely due to injury. And Cecil Shorts, when he wasn’t sidelined with a bum hamstring, was making his case to be the Jaguars’ WR1. Last week was the first time, however, that Lee paced the Jags in catches and yardage, plus he caught his first pro touchdown. Short-term Lee’s success should continue as the Jaguars have the most favorable fantasy schedule for wide receivers the rest of the way. But dynasty owners need to determine Lee’s long-term value in Jacksonville. Shorts is a potential free agent, and with three exciting rookies under contract it and Shorts’ injury history it won’t be at all surprising if he’s looking for another team this offseason. That leaves Lee, Robinson and Hurns to grow and develop with Bortles. What’s the pecking order? Hurns appears to be the home run guy, a deep threat who’ll be an inconsistent but occasionally explosive fantasy contributor; think Justin Hunter in teal. Robinson had been a high-volume target prior to his injury, with four games of double-digit targets before his rookie season ended prematurely following Week 10. Lee? I don’t think we’ve seen everything he can do just yet, so view his December as a testing ground. Can he bond with Bortles? Can he be the explosive playmaker he was at USC? Or will he be just another guy in a crowded receiver group that suffers through another season of Bortles’ growing pains. In a year loaded with rookie receiver success stories, it feels like Lee’s has yet to be written—and it could very well be one worth waiting to read.
Charles Johnson, WR, Vikings
This was supposed to be Cordarrelle Patterson’s role, but after Patterson’s 102 rushing yards in Week 1 he’s been virtually nonexistent. With a void in the Vikings’ receiving corps, enter Johnson—a 7th-round pick of the rival Packers who had bounced through a couple of organizations previously before sparkling during Minnesota’s preseason to make the final roster. In a game against his former teammates Johnson had a bit of a coming-out party, targeted 11 times while catching three balls for 52 yards and a touchdown. With the Vikings transitioning from Adrian Peterson’s team to Teddy Bridgewater’s team, Minnesota needs receivers. Is Johnson going to be the guy? Has the franchise already given up on the electric Patterson’s ability to grasp the nuances of the receiver position? Bottom line, is Johnson worth a) adding for the playoff drive and b) keeping on a dynasty roster heading into 2015? To address the former, Minnesota gets a bad Jets secondary this week and a bad Bears secondary in Week 17, both at home. Those are definite opportunities for Johnson, though more as a WR3/flex fantasy helper than a guy you build your team around. Same goes for his dynasty prospects. There’s no question Minnesota is committed to Bridgewater as the quarterback of the future, and he needs receivers. Larry Fitzgerald will be available thanks to an unwieldy contract, and a homecoming wouldn’t be a shock; neither would a high draft pick directed at Amari Cooper or Jaelen Strong. Barring something really unusual over the final month, Johnson will return as a complimentary piece to the puzzle. Worth carrying over into 2015? You should have plenty of time to stew on that decision, but don’t be surprised if the Vikings add enough players slated to be ahead of Johnson in the pecking order that your decision will be made easy well before you need to make it.