Chatting up players of interest
Just to dive deeper into players of interest, Upon Further Review will look at five players each week with a discussion involving John Tuvey and David Dorey. We’ll keep an eye for the players that interest us the most or that we apparently disagree about. Like to make a suggestion? Go to the Start Bench List for a link. If we get enough requests, we’ll happily include players the most people want examined more.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
2V: There was a time when Eli Manning was a capable fantasy quarterback. That time was at least a couple years ago; after a parting gift of 450 & 4 and 362 & 1 in the first two weeks of 2013 he’s been flat-out awful. Not sure if the new offense was supposed to fix the issue, but it’s done exactly the opposite. Dink and dunk does not suit Manning, and he’s torpedoing the fantasy value of all Giants wideouts. I personally got stuck with Victor Cruz in an auction and am currently seeking any offer to divest myself of a putrid offense with no hope of improvement. On the bright side, the G-Men will have to run so Rashad Jennings holds value, and… well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise but you’ll see another Giant mentioned below. At this point I don’t know that I would even start Eli against the Cowboys or Eagles–and that’s saying something.
DMD: Peyton Manning is 38 and directing one of the highest scoring offenses in the NFL. Eli Manning is 33 and seems like he is just done. Lost it. Cannot find it. Checked out. Playing like he wants to stop working but needs to be fired in order to collect Unemployment Insurance. In all seriousness he should have another three years or so like most quarterbacks with similar past credentials. But it is alarming. I said it last year – it is almost inexplicable how quickly he and the Giants became bad. Last year he ended up with almost his standard yardage but fell to only 18 touchdowns for a career low. He threw 27 interceptions for a career high (and an NFL high). But he did it in the same offense with pretty much the same players. Kevin Gilbride had been his offensive coach for all ten years and we chalked it up to an offense that had gone terribly stale and it seemed unimaginative and that every defense knew what was coming.
But the new offense is being installed by ex-Green Bay QB coach Ben McAdoo. Bring some new life in, change it up. Some Packer-style passing! It looked more like it was just week “18” of the 2013 NFL season. Victor Cruz dropping passes. Rueben Randle playing volleyball. The only receivers of any note was the running back and a tight end whose only football card came in the Touchdown Photo Package from when he played flag football. They were playing the Detroit Lions who were ranked 29th against wideouts last year. Some analysts say it takes six months to learn a new offense. At this point, I want no part of the Giants passing game other than Larry Donnell as my TE2 on the very off chance that week one meant anything. But if I had to move my chips onto one square, it is that the G-Men have a long year ahead, are never contenders, Tom Coughlin finally retires in the offseason and a rebuild starts anew in 2015. There is just no reason why veteran players with such past success should look so bad. Hard to say it doesn’t revolve around Manning more than any one person.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans
2V: In past years I’ve benefited from playing the other side of this equation; that is, drafting the undervalued veteran blocking the sexy rookie’s path to carries and squeezing just a little more fantasy burn out of the likes of Thomas Jones, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Shonn Greene. This preseason I must have spent too much time listening to DMD pine on about his annual rookie back mancrush because Sankey ended up on more than a few of my squads. While he hasn’t ascended to the starting gig as quickly as hoped, I’m willing to bide my time. Like Jones (and Jamaal Charles) and BJGE (and Giovanni Bernard) before him, eventually Greene’s mediocrity will catch up with him and Sankey’s touches will increase to the point of fantasy relevancy. Won’t happen this week, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Sankey is hitting double-digit touches by October and has taken the lead in Tennessee’s backfield committee by the time they return from their Week 9 bye.
DMD: I received an email that asked if they should dump Sankey because I did not project for him this week. A natural question and one that should be asked and answered. In week one, there were 32 rushing attempts by the Titans and Sankey only received six of them. I am ready to bail on him. He is not what I thought he was. I have already cut him on one … wait a minute. I did not cut him. I just added him in one league. When I received a notice he was dropped in one league, I made my barber stop cutting my hair long enough for a quick roster move. Here is the thing – he is a rookie back on a team installing a new scheme.
It reminds me of 2002 when I was really high on a rookie back. In week one he ran five times for 34 yards and I got some unkind emails. In week two, he gained 12 yards on four carries and I had people writing me not only to make sure I knew what an idiot I was, but that they had unsavory comments about my family lineage, crack cocaine habits and one person who thought The Huddle in it’s entirety existed only to screw him. That player was Clinton Portis who went on to gain 1872 total yards and 17 touchdowns in his first year.
In 2006, there was a rookie back who ran twice for eight yards in his first game. His second had just two carries for four yards. I won a league in part because someone dumped him then and I snapped up Maurice Jones-Drew who would finish with 1377 yards and 15 touchdowns including a score (or more) in each of his final nine games. I am not saying that Sankey is the next Portis or Jones-Drew. But he was the consensus best back coming out of the approximately 120 Division I colleges. He was drafted specifically by the new coaching regime as a priority. He only has to beat out 5-8, 170 lb. Dexter McCluster who has done nothing in four years and Shonn Greene who needs to be flung from a trebuchet to travel more than four yards on a play.
The truth is Sankey is a rookie and they often start slowly. The truth is that the newly installed offense needs to make sure Jake Locker makes it to October. The truth is the team needs to be comfortable with non-veterans. The truth is that deep down in places they won’t talk about on ESPN, they want Sankey in that backfield. They need Sankey in that backfield. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very fantasy wisdom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Am I saying Sankey will be a fantasy starter? I said he might start slowly and that… Am I saying Sankey will still be a fantasy starter? YOU’RE G$@D#*$% RIGHT I AM!… Yeah. I can handle the truth..
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars
2V: Allen Hurns is hot. Allen Hurns is sexy. And while Allen Hurns isn’t likely to be relegated to the bargain like other one-hit wonders like Frisman Jackson and Kevin Ogletree,he’s also not likely to be Jacksonville’s WR1 going forward. Neither is Justin Blackmon, though a tweak to the league’s drug policy might at least get him back on the field. Oft-injured Cecil Shorts is in the final year of his contract, and quite probably his Jaguars career. And that leaves Lee to become Blake Bortles’ go-to guy. His 10-target 6-62 in his NFL debut flew under the radar thanks to Hurns’ hot start, but when the smoke clears Lee will be the Jaguars receiver fantasy owners want on their roster. It’s a great time to grab him now, while he’s being overshadowed by all things Hurns, and while his 2014 production may be a bit on the thin side–have you seen the gauntlet of a schedule Jags receivers will face?–by the time Bortles takes over Lee will be his go-to guy.
DMD: I agree. Hurns had a great first game to be sure (in fairness four great first-half catches) but he was subbing for Cecil Shorts who will be back (and then gone and then back and then…). Lee was the sixth wide receiver drafted and came off a 118 catch season at USC. I had him as a sleeper and he’s on several of my teams. The Jaguars will need to throw pretty much every week and Blaine Gabbert is gone. Chad Henne is adequate and will give way to Blake Bortles at some point but that doesn’t necessarily mean bad things for Lee. Bortles was impressive in the offseason and let’s be serious – who cares if most the production comes in trash time this year? Lee won’t be much for touchdowns but in a reception point league looking for consistent weekly yardage – I remain just as high on Lee.
Larry Donnell, TE, Giants
2V: I’ll be honest; I do this for a living and Larry Donnell wasn’t even a blip on my radar until the Giants started treating him like the second coming of Gronk on Monday night. And here I thought the Giants didn’t have a tight end for new OC Ben McAdoo to shoehorn into his Packers-esque offense. Turns out he did, he just didn’t bother letting us know. In hindsight maybe his 4-60 in the Giants’ final preseason game should have been a tip-off, though he had four catches in Week 4 of the 2013 preseason and didn’t follow up with anything like the 5-56-1 he gave us in Week 1. Going forward, the Giants aren’t going to scrap the offense and Donnell appears to be the only receiver Eli is comfortable throwing to. Wouldn’t surprise if he carved out a season that makes him a low-end fantasy starter, or at minimum a bye week plug-in guy. Hey, I grabbed him in a couple leagues as a backup option or trade bait, because nothing gets you on the fantasy radar faster than a MNF touchdown.
DMD: Again I have to agree with Tuvey. As I watched the games on Sunday and Donnell started showing up, I had to do some digging. He was nothing in his first season with three catches. He was undrafted. He was the equivalent of about 60 other NFL tight ends who hide among the southern reaches of the depth charts and we never need to know them. But as mentioned above, this Giants offense looks sick (not in Boston/cool way, in a cough-cough-retch way). You have to respect that he had a team high ten passes. The Giants need someone. I have grabbed him in a few leagues as a TE2 and why not? Personally I think he is catching passes because he is the slowest player on the field and that appeals to Manning. He may disappear in a week or two but I like the whole rags-to-riches sentiment if only for one week.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts
2V: The talk this offseason was that Pep Hamilton might actually take the training wheels off and turn Andrew Luck loose. Still not sure I’m buying it; his gaudy Week 1 numbers were most likely the product of falling behind Peyton Manning’s Broncos. But the Indy o-line is bad enough that I think they’ll have to use two tight end sets more frequently, which means Allen will see plenty of field time. Can he parlay that into fantasy productivity? Sure, but Coby Fleener will be there taking food off his plate. There are just too many ways things could go south for Allen–Hamilton force-feeds the ground game, Hamilton opts to air it out and scraps the 2TE sets to go three-wide, Fleener bonds with his college buddy to usurp Allen’s looks–for me to trust him as an every-week fantasy option.
DMD: The early returns – and by that I mean there has been just one game – is that Allen is picking up where he left off as a rookie in 2012 when he was getting three or more catches almost every game starting in week eight. Coby Fleener (3-21) did get eight targets compared to only six for Allen. But he gained 64 yards on his four catches and scored a 41-yard touchdown. He looked really fast on the play. Fleener is never going to be more than he has already been. But I like Allen to improve this year and be the better tight end. On this offense – what can that mean? The Colts already have three good wide receivers and that is going to slow down the action for the tight ends. And they intend to use more multiple receiver sets and less two tight end “let’s run” formations. That all means while Allen will be better and obviously have good games, he’s not going to be consistent. And that makes him more challenging to forecast.