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.
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
DMD: Not much question who is going to be the hot waiver wire guy in your league provided some other prospector hasn’t already snapped him up as a speculative pick. Of course Murray had only ran six times for 11 yards this year and then was allowed four carries in San Diego where he gained 43 yards and added three catches for 16 yards. Not a lot but in Raider terms this was a breakout game. Compared to Maurice Jones-Drew who has ended games with negative yardage, why not try Murray? In the driving rain against the only defense in the NFL that had never allowed any rushing touchdown, Murray of course scored twice. He ran in from 11 yards and 90 yards and ended with just four carries for 112 yards before getting a concussion. Now it was a trap game and in the driving rain and he only had four carries. But he also did more in four carries than what Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew combined did in any game. Assuming the concussion clears up quickly, I would expect to see him playing a lot. McFadden is on a one-year deal he signed because no one else would sign him. MJD looks so ineffective that it is surprising he can sign the checks each week. But the 6-3/225 back from Central Florida showed power and obvious speed on his 90 yard score. The Raiders have to see what they have in Murray – McFadden and especially MJD are hardly locks to be there next year.
2V: It’s too early to say the future is bright in Oakland, but it’s not too early to say they have some talent at key positions that will go a long way towards rebuilding the reputation of the once-proud franchise. Murray could join Derek Carr, Andre Holmes, and Mychal Rivera in filling one of those critical offensive roles, and the team’s decision to give him more work early in the game Thursday night produced definite rewards. Of course, it also ended after just four carries when Murray suffered a concussion, but he’ll have a little extra time to go through the league protocol before the Raiders suit up next. And there’s little question any and all future carries should be given to him and not Darren McFadden or Maurice Jones-Drew, neither of whom will be wearing the Silver and Black next year. Murray flashed his considerable upside and, once cleared for duty, should be given every opportunity to demonstrate just what he can bring to the table in Oakland. Will Oakland actually follow through? After seeing them give Carr and Holmes starting gigs you have to think they’re well aware of the need to fully evaluate Murray. The only concern for fantasy owners is when Murray will return. On the bright side, potentially missing a week might keep his price down on the waiver wire next week, but either way there’s little question he’s going to get extended run the rest of the way and therefore belongs on fantasy rosters.
Drew Stanton, QB, Cardinals
DMD: I was a big fan of Carson Palmer last summer and he ended up on several of my teams. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington were enticing. And Palmer was good for two or three scores in all games he started and finished. But now he is gong and Stanton takes over. The problem I have with Stanton is that he’s bee okay at home but in his two road games was very ineffective. And the Cards upcoming schedule is @SEA, @ATL, KC, @STL and SEA. Stanton has not had success with Fitzgerald either. I am downgrading the ARI offense both from the schedule challenge and Stanton is not going to hold up as well as Palmer would have.
2V: Bruce Arians and the Cardinals trust Stanton to lead them into the post-season, but really what other option do they have? Stanton has proven capable of running Arians’ offense, but a brutal remaining schedule suggests you shouldn’t be banking on him to carry your fantasy team’s title hopes. Two dates with Seattle aren’t necessarily a death sentence, but they’re not ideal. Kansas City and San Francisco are also tough on quarterbacks, and the Rams just held Peyton Manning in check so they’re no pushover either. In fact, Stanton has just one startable fantasy date left on his docket, Week 13 in Atlanta. All fantasy owners should be hoping for at this point is that Stanton can keep Andre Ellington and the Arizona receivers relevant; banking on Stanton himself for any sort of productive fantasy contribution seems aggressive at best, foolish at worst.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
DMD: I was watching when Robert Griffin III took that wrong turn in the post game interview (don’t go there, do not go there… oh man, he went there). But that whole “throw under the bus” thing about his teammates was the product of a team that is just struggling to generate offense with their pricey star quarterback that HC Jay Gruden had nothing to so with drafting. RG3 has just two touchdowns on the year against three interceptions after three full games. He’s not running as much or scoring on the ground. He’s just either not a fit for the new vertical offense or he’s having problems learning it. There is has been nearly no fantasy value from the passing game of the Skins this year aside from DeSean Jackson anyway. Pierre Garcon’s decline is dumbfounding for a player who was the core of the receivers last year with 113 receptions. His last game was one catch for six yards against the Buccaneers. Jordan Reed was expected to do something this year but he’s been hurt and for the last five weeks completely mediocre with no scores. The Skins cannot go changing offenses every year but RG3 is not fitting into what the offense needs and it is obvious he is not on the same page as Gruden. He did hit Jackson for 120 yards and one score in week nine but then only 35 yards on four catches versus TB. The next weeks go against @SF, @IND and STL and I not only am giving up on RG3 for this year, I am worried about Jackson’s production right when you need him the most.
2V: It’s a long-standing tradition in Washington, DC to blame the leader, and RG3 is no exception. Some critics got what they wished for when Kirk Cousins received an extended run at quarterback, and once the league got a read on him the results weren’t pretty. Colt McCoy likely falls into that same category; we just haven’t seen enough of him yet. So where does that leave RG3? Unfortunately his early-season injury didn’t allow him to settle into Washington’s new offense like, say, Eli Manning did in New York a couple games into the season. I still contend Jay Gruden’s system is a perfect fit for RG3’s skills, with the added bonus of having a talented group of receivers to play pitch and catch with. But it’s going to take more than fits and starts of RG3 at the helm for the offensive chemistry to sync up, and right now it’s clearly out of sync. The Redskins have a favorable finishing slate, and RG3 could salvage a lost season by bailing out your fantasy team with strong performances in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Giants and Eagles. But he also might not last that long at the helm, as there seems to be a quick hook heading his way in DC. Again, I still think given the time to develop in this offense it’s a plus system for RG3. But will he get that chance and/or develop quickly enough to be a fantasy factor down the stretch in redraft leagues? Iffy at best, especially when you consider he has to get past road dates in San Francisco and Indy and a home meeting with the resurgent Rams just to get you squad into those favorable matchups.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
DMD: After two seasons, Anderson is finally getting some playing time and he gained 163 total yards and a score in Oakland two weeks ago. Last week it was 115 total yards in St. Louis. At 5-8/224, Anderson brings a power runner to the party but the question is what to expect for the rest of the year? Montee Ball won’t be back for another week or two at least and by this point he’ll probably only get hurt again. Ronnie Hillman is out for another three or more weeks. Juwan Thompson is not a factor now. Anderson is a decent power back and all this offense needs is someone who is at least average. Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman both greatly benefited from being in DEN instead of anywhere else. The Broncos have MIA, @KC and IND up next and Anderson should be the primary for those. But once Ball returns, there will be a sharing and then by the NFL playoffs all three are likely to be available and guessing who does what in January will be a coin flip. For now, Anderson should post the points for the next two or three weeks. After that all bets are off.
2V: Next man up is in play for the Broncos, and with Montee Ball re-injured and Ronnie Hillman nursing a bad foot the next man is Anderson. There’s always fantasy value to being a running back in a Peyton Manning offense, especially if you can do enough in pass protection to keep Manning’s jersey clean. Anderson has improved in that area, enough so that he should remain the primary back in Denver’s offense for the foreseeable future. That certainly gives him fantasy value, be it on draws when opponents are expecting Manning to pass or capping drives Peyton’s passing takes into the red zone. It’s too early to give Anderson any sort of leg up over Ball or Hillman for 2015, but if you’re playing to win in 2014 Anderson has definite fantasy upside.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers
DMD: I had to include Davis since most people forget he is still in the league. But barely. His production has all but disappeared this season and he currently has just 18 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns (both back in week one). You cannot start him anymore since he is catching only one or two short passes each week and never scoring. In a redraft league, yeah – he is done. But one interesting fact – he is repeating what happened in 2012 when he went dry from week five onward and was getting zero to two catches in every game from week 12 onward. And yet in the second round of the playoffs, he ended with 5-106-1 and posted 6-104-0 in the Super Bowl. Hard to just believe he is done when he is 30 and younger than Antonio Gates (34), Owen Daniels (34) and Jason Witten (32).
2V: When the 49ers were low on wide receivers last season, they turned to Davis and he responded in a big, big way. So expectations were high heading into this season, and early on—okay, in Week 1—Davis lived up to them with a pair of touchdowns. Since then? Bupkis. Doesn’t help VD that Michael Crabtree is healthy and the apple of Colin Kaepernick’s eye, but is there more to it than that? Davis’ back injury is probably worse than we’re being told, and he’s actually playing through some pretty intense pain. Coupled with his reduced role, that’s enough to bump Davis off the radar. He’s too talented and well compensated to remain a bit piece of the 49ers offensive puzzle, but the fantasy guess here is that nothing major will change until the offseason. And that leaves him as a leap of faith fantasy play at best the rest of the way—even in what on paper are a pair of very favorable matchups against a Seattle defense that’s struggled to defend the tight end all year long.