It’s Friday and time to put your feet up and talk about what’s interesting.
Deshaun Watson – What a heartbreaker. Watson has a great backstory and was already an inspirational player that you genuinely want to succeed. He’s torn the ACL and the season is over. He already threw for 19 touchdowns – more than any other rookie in the history of the NFL and four more scores than the Texans totaled in all of 2016.
Not even adjusting for Week 1 when he did not start, Watson was on pace to throw for 3,883 yards – more than the 3,729-yard record by Peyton Manning. He was on pace to throw for 43 touchdowns even though he only scored one over the initial two weeks. The NFL record – again by Manning and Russell Wilson – was for 26 touchdowns. He would have surely buried it.
His fantasy value was immeasurable since he was an afterthought in most drafts and yet became the No. 1 fantasy quarterback. I bought him for $6 in my dynasty league with a $500 salary cap. Modern medicine is amazing and he should be back for 2018 no worse for wear. But the NFL lost some excitement for the rest of the season.
Kelvin Benjamin – To no surprise, he was inactive this week with the Bills. He still may have not worn a uniform yet. The move was a surprise but apparently came about since the Panthers were not going to keep him long-term and they a received a 2018 third- and seventh-round pick for him.
But they spent a 1.28 pick on him in 2014. He’s been the leading wideout for the Panthers in each year that he played. Party-line has been that he was let go because he and Devin Funchess are too similar and they wanted to get faster starting the rookie Curtis Samuel. This upgrades the Bills with a 6-5 possession receiver.
This downgrades the Panthers for 2017. Devin Funchess hadn’t broken 100 yards since one fluky game when he was a rookie in 2015. He is only averaging 51 yards per game and scored in just two. Samuel may become a weapon, but so far he’s nursed an ankle injury and never caught more than two passes for 20 yards in any game. He’s a blazing speedster that only averages 6.7 yards per catch so far. The Bills will get a boost but the Panthers just lost their best receiver and still won’t see Greg Olsen for at least three weeks.
Jay Ajayi – This seemed like the biggest surprise but Ajayi was not getting along with HC Adam Gase who likes to make the dramatic statement to his team. Bad equation for Ajayi. So the Dolphins sent the guy with 90% of their current rushing yards to the Eagles in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Ajayi already has the well-known knee issues that are expected to limit his career. But like the Panthers losing Kelvin Benjamin, the Fins move forward backfilling with lesser experienced players.
Kenyan Drake totals ten carries for 25 yards this year. Damien Williams produced 32 yards on 12 runs. They combined for less yards over seven games than Ajayi averaged in one. More curious is adding Ajayi to the Eagles backfield that becomes an even bigger committee. LeGarrette Blount was said to remain as the primary back but he never had more than 16 carries in any game. He’s certain to lose carries and eventually his starting role. Ajayi’s days of 25 carries are over.
The only winner here is Kenyan Drake getting a far better opportunity to run behind one of the weakest offensive lines.
Corey Davis – The 1.05 pick of the draft returns to play this week and that has generated optimism by fantasy teams looking for anyone to crawl out from a rock and become a fantasy starter. This one is harder to see. David played in the season opener when he caught six passes for 69 yards but injured his hamstring in Week 2 and has not been seen since. There is no questioning that the first wideout drafted this year has immense and elite talent.
But reality already says he’ll be eased back into the flow. He’s playing at NFL-speed now and missing six weeks of practice matters to a rookie. Marcus Mariota has only thrown for five touchdowns this year. That was not because they were just waiting for Davis to show up. He may be up to speed by Weeks 12 (@IND) and 13 (@SF) but if he can become a reliable wideout this year is likely optimistic.
Josh Gordon – His reinstatement was approved and he can join the Browns on November 20. He could be available for playing in Week 13 on that timeline. This is an ideal situation and not because he is going to return and make any real difference this year. But after not playing since 2014, we can get a look at him before 2018 when he has a chance to return to form.
Gordon hasn’t played in two years – the track record for such players is not favorable. He was suspended for multiple violations of the substance abuse policy and repeatedly did not take rehab seriously. He receives a very rare chance to yet again try to have a career. And everyone deserves a
second third fourth chance. It will take weeks for him to get back into shape and understand the offense that changed since he last played. But we get a free look at what he might do next year. He’s one sneeze away from a lifetime ban but he impressed in the preseason of 2016 when he last tried to return.
Aldrick Robinson – Pierre Garcon is on injured reserve as of yesterday due to his neck injury. He led the 49ers with 40 catches for 500 yards (and no touchdowns,). Trent Taylor was the 5.34 pick this year but he’s more suited for the slot where he’s already worked. Taylor is only 5-8 and 181 pounds. Aldrick Robinson should see most of the work replacing Garcon at least to start. He’s a five-year veteran who played with the Redskins and Falcons before landing with the 49ers this year. Marquise Goodwin remains the flanker/Y receiver and he should stand to see the most increase as the most talented wideout on the roster.
The bottom line here is that the 49ers are already in rebuild mode and any notable performances are purely coincidental. The schedule is not kind either and there could be quarterback changes down the road. Both Robinson and Goodwin merit fantasy depth just in case something unexpected happens. But Garcon likely took the role as the only fantasy relevant receiver with him.
And an extra point – Andrew Luck is on injured reserve now and that just makes the final stamp of “the season is over” official. He still has no timeline of when he will be back and the Colts insisted that it was not career-threatening. I’m sorry, what did you say? We’ve jumped from “back in a few weeks” to referring to his career? Couple that with the reported fire sale that the Colts tried to have before the trade deadline and 2018 doesn’t feel very encouraging. It all feels like it may be “tear it up and start over.”