FIRST DOWN – SLUMBERING GIANTS
What’s that saying? Bigger is better! Or is it? Good things can and do come in small packages but when it comes to NFL wide receivers, the players that teams go ga-ga over are ones that are 6’3” or taller and 220+ pounds. Big, physical, imposing wide receivers that can make the tough catches, dominate the defensive backs they normally tower over and are great red zone targets are all the rage. The following wide receivers have lit it up in the NFL but of late, not so much and their fantasy owners sure could benefit from them waking from their unfriendly fantasy slumber.
Julio Jones (6’3”, 220 lbs)
Jones got off to a fast start this season. After five weeks he was second in fantasy points scored among WRs. A start like that ramps up expectations and when expectations are high, they can crash down fast and hard. At least I didn’t say the bigger they are the harder they fall. Since week 6, Jones ranks 58th in fantasy points scored among WRs with 31.30 points. That’s 0.60 points less than Buffalo WR, Chris Hogan. As much as Jones has struggled, he has continued to get targets and is averaging close to 9 targets a game. The Falcons OL isn’t doing the passing game any favors but with a matchup against a Buccaneers team that ranks 4th in PPG allowed to WRs should be the wake up nudge that Jones fantasy value needs. After his trip to Tampa he’ll get a solid matchup at home against a Panthers team who over the last month ranks 7th in PPG allowed to WRs. Soon your Jones frustration will be a distant memory. Oh and he also has three other matchups against teams that rank in the top 10 in PPG allowed (Browns-10, Cards-3 & Saints-2).
Brandon Marshall (6’4”, 230 lbs)
Unlike Julio Jones, Marshall has likely done very little for your fantasy team. He did catch three TD passes in week 2 but due to being a GTD and a very risky play he was on many a fantasy owners benches. As it stands now, Marshall is on pace to finish with 68 catches for 768 yards. Both totals are by far his fewest since his rookie season in 2006. The one thing, like with Julio, that’s encouraging is that he’s still getting targeted – 29 targets his last three games and 66 for the season. The 29 targets extrapolate to 155 targets and while less than he had last year, not by much, just nine less. With five matchups (Lions twice) against teams that rank 23rd or worse in PPG allowed to WRs Mr. Marshall might just snooze thru the rest of the 2014 season. He does have two nice matchups against a Buccaneers (4th) team and Saints (6th) team that both rank highly in PPG allowed to WRs. I’m a Marshall fan but the truth is that he has plenty of tough matchups and shouldn’t be viewed as a must weekly start right now.
Andre Johnson (6’3”, 230 lbs)
Johnson has a lot of things going for him. He’s big, strong and one heck of a competitor. What he doesn’t have going for him is that he’s on the wrong side of 30 (33 actually), has a young, up and coming star in DeAndre Hopkins playing across from him but the biggest issue for Johnson now is that the Texans are making a switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Ryan Mallet at QB. Target wise, Johnson has been up and down week to week, he’s on pace for 146, down 16% from last year. Fantasy point wise he’s trending down 27% versus last year. It’s not time send AJ to the old folks home and never visit him, but weekly visits definitely aren’t needed or recommended. Just hope that while he’s slumbering that he’s getting enough rest for week 16 when he faces a Ravens team that currently ranks 1st in PPG allowed to WRs. Sometimes it’s not how you start but how you finish.
SECOND DOWN – A SHORT THING
There’s no such thing as a sure thing in fantasy football but these short wide receivers are running circles around their bigger, taller and slumbering counterparts.
Antonio Brown (5’10”, 186 lbs)
Brown is, as they say enfuego. He sits atop the wide receiver rankings having scored 43.3 more points than the 2nd ranked WR, the 6’3”, 229 lb, Demaryius Thomas. Brown is on pace for 183 targets and that’s after only getting 6 targets in week 1. Every week since, he’s been targeted double-digit times. Over those last 8 games his pace is equal to 194 targets. His 2.18 fantasy points/target this year is better than the 2.01 had by the 6’3”, 225 lb, Josh Gordon in 2013 and better than the 1.77 that the 6’5”, 236 lb, Calvin Johnson had in 2012 when he logged 1964 receiving yards. While he’s short on height, Brown isn’t short on fantasy badassedness!
T.Y. Hilton (5’9”, 178 lbs)
Hilton is a player that I repeatedly said on the radio last year that I liked but that he was too inconsistent for my taste. My oh my, how things have changed this year. Hilton has been as consistent as any fantasy owner could hope, especially for a guy that had an ADP of WR23. Hilton did get out of the gate a bit slow in week one, posting just 9.10 fantasy points on 5 catches for 41 yards. It’s pretty much been all uphill since then. He’s had 5 or more catches in every game this year except for last week (3 catches) but he supplemented his fantasy total by taking a sure INT away from a Giants CB for a Colts TD. It was an impressive play for a “little” guy. With how Hilton is playing, even a week 16 matchup against a Cowboys team that ranks 32nd in PPG allowed to WRs wouldn’t keep him out of my lineup. That is if I owned him, which I don’t. Why? Because I was busy drafting all those bigger, taller, less productive WRs to help me not win my fantasy matchups.
Emmanuel Sanders (5’11”, 180 lbs)
Sanders best year in Pittsburgh was last year when he put up a line of 67-732-6. Scoring 176.90 points on 108 targets gave him a fantasy points/target of 1.64. The “short” WR was clearly short on fantasy success in Pittsburgh but that’s not the case in Denver with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. With Manning he’s already put up a 57-785-4 line and is on pace for 114-1570-8 or 323.6 fantasy points (2.13 fantasy points/target).
These three aren’t the only “small” (6’ or shorter) WRs having fantasy success. Jeremy Maclin is on fire this year, especially the last couple of weeks. Randall Cobb and Golden Tate are another couple of small WRs that are doing very well this year. The moral of this story is that you don’t have to be tall to catch a football. However, there are times when short is too short.
THIRD DOWN – Steve’s Seven Sleepers
The Texans, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Chargers and Washington are all on a bye this week. Check out my seven sleepers that I think can help you cover a bye week issue. To qualify the player can’t rank in the top-36** at their respective position based on the season long rankings in the Huddle IDP Expert League. I thought it’d be nice to show how my sleepers did the previous week so you’ll also find last week’s sleepers with the amount of points that they scored. I also want to add that I’m trying to target players that should be available on waivers.
*Top-12 for QB & TE. **Top-15 for QB & TE.
|Week 9||Week 8|
|QB||Zach Mettenberger||QB||Brian Hoyer||19.90|
|RB||Charles Sims||RB||Mike James*||0.90|
|WR||Justin Hunter||WR||Jordan Matthews||13.00|
|TE||Scott Chandler||TE||Clay Harbor||0.00|
|DL||Akiem Hicks||DL||Dontari Poe||11.00|
|LB||Telvin Smith||LB||James Thomas||15.00|
|DB||Will Hill||DB||Major Wright||20.00|
Another week, another hit at QB. Brian Hoyer didn’t break the 20-point plateau but he was very close (19.90). I also said I liked Teddy Bridgewater (16.72) and Andy Dalton (18.42) last week and both had decent enough outings. This week I love Zach Mettenberger against a Ravens team that just cut CBs Chykie Brown and Dominique Brown and lost Jimmy Smith for the season due to foot surgery. Lardarius Webb is allowing a passer rating of 105 on throws his way this year and Danny Gorrer is surrendering a passer rating of 95. Yep, I like Mettenberger a ton this week. The one thing that makes Mettenberger a slightly risky play is that the game is in Baltimore, but even so I still like him. If you can’t go with the rookie then give Mark Sanchez a test drive. At RB, last week was a clear miss.
I really expected Charles Sims to be active but he wasn’t and that pushed Mike James up as my sleeper. I know James had done next to nothing prior to last week but that call was due to what Bobby Rainey tends to do…put the ball on the ground. I was expecting Rainey to fumble and James to carry the load. I should have expanded on that last week but I did warn that he was a very risky option. If Sims, ends up being inactive again then my sleeper is Marion Grice (another very risky play and not for the faint of heart).
At WR, Jordan Matthews had a respectable 13 points. This week I’m tagging Justin Hunter as my sleeper. Same reason why I like Mettenberger. I did consider going with Kenny Britt, Davante Adams and even Jermaine Kearse (especially if Doug Baldwin can’t go this week.) but I think that Hunter has really big upside this week.
At TE I whiffed on Clay Harbor who had a donut last week — such a wasted opportunity of a great matchup. This week I could probably go with Mychal Rivera (I do like him) but I wanted to go with someone not as obvious as a guy that’s logged 20 targets in his last two games. My play this week is Scott Chandler. If Sammy Watkins (groin) plays I’m not going to like my pick of Chandler very much.
IDP wise, last week was very nice, led by Major Wright and his 20 fantasy points but James Thomas scoring 15 was solid too and getting 11 points from Dontari Poe is something I’d take from a DL each and every week. At DT I’m rolling with Akiem Hicks of the Saints who is facing a 49ers team that just gave up 8 sacks to the Rams last week. At LB I’m going with James Thomas’ teammate Telvin Smith and at DB I’m going with a high upside/high risk play in Will Hill. Someone is going to have to make the tackles that the Ravens’ CBs miss.
FOURTH DOWN – TRENCH WARFARE
If you are a Lamar Miller owner the best thing that could have happened for you may have been the AC Joint injury that he sustained last week. The reason I say that is that injury probably has you contemplating whether you should start or sit him. It’s bad enough that he’s facing a tough Lions rush defense this week and if healthy you’d likely have felt forced to start him. If you’re still thinking about starting Miller I suggest you look at the below images. You will see the Dolphins have rushed for more than 4.0 YPC in each direction but look at the counter that the Lions present.
Dolphins Rushing Offense
Lions Rushing Defense