Chatting Up Players of Interest
We’ll mark the swan song of Upon Further Review for 2014 with a combo platter: a few difficult WDIS decisions for Championship Week, and a couple players with dyansty league ramifications.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
So you find yourself playing a meaningful game in Week 16, and you also find yourself without a quarterback. Hey, could happen; maybe you rode Jay Cutler here, maybe you streamed guys like Zach Mettenberger, whatever the reason here you are. If you have no other choice, it’s not that difficult to talk yourself into RG3 this weekend. He has a home matchup with a Philly defense that’s giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, he looked reasonably good last week against the Giants–a stat line that was one bobble away from looking really impressive–and he’s playing for somebody’s job–his own, maybe, or Jay Gruden’s, or perhaps both. What’s interesting is that both the P&P (260 & 2, 30 rushing yards) and the SBL (a high Fringe Play) mark him as a fantasy starter this week. Ahead of Mark Sanchez, whose numbers have been in steady decline since he took over the starting gig in Philly? Over Philip Rivers, who is already mired in a slump and just lost his best receiver to a busted collarbone and faces a San Francisco defense that’s desperately trying to keep the Niners in the playoff picture? The consensus is yes to RG3 over Sanchez or Rivers, with an acknowledgement that such a move comes with inherent risk. Hey, it’s the Fantasy Bowl; go big or go home.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
Flying in the face of “dance with the gal who brung ya” is the push to bench Forte this week. He was probably your first-round pick, and for the most part he’s carried you this far. But just look at the confluence of issues conspiring to make Forte underperform this week. First, there’s the matchup with a Detroit defense that held him to six rushing yards the last time they met. Then there’s the quarterback thing: you think the Lions defense will worry more about shutting down Forte or a quarterback who’s thrown 10 passes in the past four seasons? Even the Lions’ secondary doesn’t have to split its attention between Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, with the latter down for the season due to injury. So let’s play the “would you rather?” game again. Dan Herron against Dallas? Lamar Miller against the Vikings? Chris Ivory against the Patriots? The latter two are consensus “yes” votes; the former gets a thumbs up from the SBL, but Herron falls three points shy of Forte in the P&P. That’s an idea of the window in which the perennial “sure thing” Forte falls into this week. It won’t be an easy decision to sit your top pick with a trophy on the line, but there are enough warning signs that it’s at least a conversation you need to have with yourself before setting your lineup.
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
Remember how you felt so wise, stashing Gordon and waiting out his suspension because he would set the world on fire when he returned to the lineup? And then he was targeted 16 times in his first game back, put up 120 yards and you thought you were golden? Only Gordon took plenty of heat for lack of effort on two balls directed at him that resulted in interceptions, and then his targets dropped to 13 the next week, and then to seven, and then Johnny Manziel took over at quarterback and it turns out he may not be NFL-ready quite yet. And now you’ve got to decide if Gordon warrants a Championship Week start against a Carolina secondary that’s been pretty good of late, and suddenly that 10-week wait with Gordon sucking up a roster spot seems like less and less of a smart move. Gordon is an optimistic 5-60 in the P&P and a less-glowing “sit ’em if you got ’em” on the SBL. Fortunately you’re less beholden to him than if you had been playing him all year, so you should have alternatives at your disposal.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
Back on dynasty league draft day last August, it made a ton of sense: grab Carlos Hyde, stash him away while Frank Gore wrapped up his decade-long run in San Francisco, and head into 2015 with the feature back on a dominant run-first offense. Only it’s not exactly shaping up that way. While Gore has shown plenty of signs of being ready to ride off into the sunset, Hyde hasn’t demonstrated he’s ready to take the mantle. And the Niners’ grip on the upper echelon of the NFC West, let alone the NFC, is slipping away. So Hyde may enter 2015 with a new coach–and we all know new coaches aren’t exactly beholden to the personnel on the roster they inherit. Would it necessarily be good news if the 49ers promoted from within, say OC Greg Roman–the very guy who’s continued to give Gore carries over Hyde despite the obvious wear on Frank’s tires? Would an outsider be better, having no ties to the second-round pick the franchise spent in 2014? It certainly makes the decision to keep or bail on Hyde far less clear than it seemed to be four months ago; hopefully by the time roster decision day rolls around in your league there will be more clarity with the Niners’ franchise–clarity that extends to Hyde and his potential role.
Cody Latimer, WR, Broncos
Another popular dynasty league grab, Latimer has played in two games, seeing two targets and catching one for nine yards. But with Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas both in the final year of their contracts, the path to a primo spot catching balls from Peyton Manning is less blocked than you might think. You would assume Denver won’t let Thomas walk, but Welker may call it a career–opening up a slot spot for Latimer to create some serious mismatches. Or maybe the Broncos fall just shy of another ring for Peyton and load up with experienced veterans for one more run before Manning retires, keeping Latimer on the back burner. Again, hopefully your league’s roster decision deadline allows you to see what happens to Denver in the postseason and what that means for the Broncos’ 2015 roster. A best-case scenario for Latimer includes the return of Manning for at least one more season and the departure of Welker. You could argue he’d benefit from the club letting Demaryius walk as well, but that might be asking too much of Latimer to step into that role right away; better he operate as WR3 for at least a season, seeing other team’s nickel corners rather than their shutdown guys. There’s undeniable upside to Latimer, but you also have to consider that if Denver does re-sign Demaryius that means Latimer will never be more than a WR3 for Peyton durin ghte final two years of his contract. Maybe your best move is to let someone else overpay for his short-term upside while you clear roster space for better long-term prospects–or at least guys with the potential to be their team’s WR1 in the forseeable future.