Week 3 was a mixed bag of results. There were far fewer injuries than in Week 2 and we’re still getting about ten or twelve quarterbacks who throw for 300+ yards. Le’Veon Bell is back this week and then Tom Brady returns in Week 5. This year has been no more static than any season and the changes that have so impacted fantasy league standings are going to continue. This is no time to get comfortable because some injured players will be returning and there will be others who will leave. As tough and frustrating as that can be, it is also what makes fantasy football a fun challenge. This ain’t paint by the numbers or set your roster and let it ride.
Pull up a chair. Here’s another six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. WR Adam Humphries (TB) – You have to notice him. The undrafted wideout out of Clemson in 2015 is finding a place in the Buccaneers passing game. He turned in his first 100 yard game last week against the Rams when he caught nine passes. His 12 targets were second only to Mike Evans with 14. Now Evans will always be the dominant receiver in Tampa Bay. But the 33-year-old Vincent Jackson has faded so much that the passes had to go somewhere. Jackson remains the starter despite only nine catches for 99 yards on the year.
Humphries is another small slot guy (5-11, 195 lbs.) that is becoming much more popular in the NFL. Notable is that the Buccaneers face the Broncos and Panthers next and Mike Evans is not going to be enough to stay in those games. His outlook is always limited but in a reception points league, he’s starting to merit consideration if he can continue to take up the slack of the declining Jackson.
2. RB Jordan Howard (CHI) – The Bears lost Jeremy Langford for the next four to six weeks and with that Howard becomes a starter. The fifth-round pick this year only had 12 carries so far but gained 67 yards (5.8 YPC). That’s significantly better than Anderson’s 3.7 yard average. And even Ka’Deem Carey is out with a hamstring strain.
This is a situation where Howard could take the starting role from Anderson with a good showing. The rookie is a bruiser at 6-1/222 lbs. and has been compared to LeGarrette Blount. Howard played two years at Alabama Birmingham and then transferred to Indiana where he posted 1213 yards and a 6.2 YPC as a Junior. He then declared for the draft. Howard only caught 24 passes over this three seasons in college so he’s expected to be a rusher and less of a receiver. The next two games go against the Lions and Colts and that should provide a great opportunity to impress.
3. RB Kenneth Dixon (BAL) – Thanks to a mistaken report, Dixon became of great interest this week since it was thought he might play this week. He remains out but may be back for Week 5 when the Ravens host the Redskins. Dixon looked good in the preseason but has been dealing with an MCL injury since August. He spent four years at Louisiana Tech where he had a 5.6 YPC average and his best season there was as a junior when he ran for 1299 yards and caught 30 passes for 385 yards with a total of 28 touchdowns.
Dixon was the sixth back drafted and yet only a late fourth round pick. The Ravens have the 28th ranked set of running backs currently so there’s plenty of room to improve. But realistically he is missing a home game versus the Raiders this week which could have really made him look good. The reality here has to be that he’ll just add to the committee approach unless he really blows up in his initial playing time but his first games would be WAS, @NYG, @NYJ and PIT. Only the Skins game looks to be advantageous but Dixon is a good receiver. He could be a good fit to this offense but for his first year he’s much more likely to just join in the rotation. Javorius Allen was a fourth-round pick as well.
4. RB Wendell Smallwood (PHI) – During the offseason, Smallwood generated some hype and seemed destined for a good rookie season. He strained his quad in early August and then missed most of the preseason. Falling behind meant that Kenjon Barner took the #3 role behind Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Smallwood seemed buried before he started.
But as always, Ryan Mathews is dealing with an ankle injury and last week Smallwood turned in 17 carries for 79 yards and a score against the Steelers after having only three carries over the first two weeks. His role as a receiver could be big as he had 68 catches at West Virginia over his three seasons. He blew up there with 1519 rush yards as a junior so he declared for the NFL draft. This is an offense with a very old back and another who never stays healthy. He still may cede third down work to Sproles and Mathews will get healthy again for some short period of time. But there’s a big opening for Smallwood to step up and he could be a big factor there if only in 2017.
5. WR Andrew Hawkins (CLE) – I seem to keep talking about Browns receivers. And that seems very wrong. But Josh Gordon just dropped a bombshell that he won’t play in 2016 since he needs to enter rehab – kudos to him and best wishes. But left behind seems to be just another sad sack Browns team that cannot catch a break. Corey Coleman is still out for about another month with his broken hand. Terrelle Pryor had a huge Week 3 but currently is the only wideout of any apparent concern to defenses.
Andrew Hawkins is the starter at least until Coleman returns. He only caught two passes for 14 yards last week. But he was as good as 824 yards on 63 catches back in 2014 when he played for the Browns after three years with the Bengals. Of course having a rookie quarterback is just another downgrade. Seems like someone in Cleveland has to be there for trash time catches and yardage. But it could just be back with Gary Barnidge. Barring a surprise, the Browns are going to post yet another bitterly disappointing year with Gordon’s withdrawal a perfect symbol of their 2016 season.
6. NY Giants backfield – The Giants haven’t featured an elite rusher in many years and though the 2015 season was only mediocre at best,. no changes were made. The unit only ran for five touchdowns. No rusher had more than 195 yards for 863 yards. Now Shane Vereen is gone and as of last year, he produced 59 catches for 495 yards and four scores. Where does that go now?
Rashad Jennings is a capable receiver but he’s already the primary back and at 31 years of age – can he take a heavier load? He was out last week with a sprained thumb. He’s never had more than 195 carries in a season. Orleans Darkwa is there but he only had 36 carries in 2015 and last week received ten carries to gain 53 yards and one score but only had one catch. Bobby Rainey had just one catch. Maybe the Vereen touches don’t really go anywhere.
But – here’s something at least worth a ponder. The Giants drafted Paul Perkins with their 5.10 pick and the ex-USC back has decent size at 5-10, 210 lbs.. When they drafted him, they thought he could play a full role if needed. Perkins had a down junior year but ran for over 1300 yards his first two seasons as a Trojan. And… he caught 80 passes there over his three years. The Giants rarely let any rookie back do much but if you had an empty spot on the back of your roster – this week should indicate if he’ll have any role or not. Quick add and drop if nothing happens.
And an extra point…
I have to comment – how is it that running backs have become so worthless? The flop rate seems to increase every year and injuries happen more often and earlier in the year. The rule of thumb has always been that about half in any position will fail to return to the top ten the next season. That sort of success rate seems a pipe dream now.
Have to wonder if the relaxed preseason practice rules the last couple of years means that players are not as conditioned as they once were. All I know is that next year I will never draft a back on a good team and not get his backup. Nothing hurts like getting beaten by the backup of the same guy that is on your bench or even already cut from the roster.