PUT A RING ON THAT THING!
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks (available in 56% of MFL leagues)
No surprises here, Seattle is still a run-first team; moreover—and again, as expected—Jimmy Graham is starting to bogart the targets. So the margin of error for a Seahawks wideout is slim. But Lockett has handled five targets in three of the last four games—the only Seahawks wideout to reach that number in any of those tilts. The results aren’t gaudy—11 catches, 166 yards and a TD over that span—but Lockett gets a boost if your league includes return TDs. He’s clearly burgeoning into someone the Seattle offense will rely on, and the more success Marshawn Lynch has the more likely defenses have to commit another safety to the box—and the more open spaces Lockett will see downfield. He’s definitely a spot fantasy starter the rest of the way, and if there’s a keeper element to your league a viable stash as the Seahawks’ version of Jarvis Landry going forward.
Nate Washington, WR, Texans (available in 83% of MFL leagues)
A little quick digging unearthed this concern about DeAndre Hopkins going forward: prior to last week’s injury, Hopkins averaged 7-84 in three games without Arian Foster and 10-158 when Foster was attracting defensive attention. It’s not as if the Texans are going to throw less or be more competitive sans Foster, so where are those throws going? Most likely to Washington, who averaged 70 yards a game—including a 6-105 season opener—while Foster was sidelined. After a three-tame absence for his own injury issues, Washington returned last week—just in time to see 16 targets and produce 9-127-2 in a game that is likely to resemble much of the remainder of Houston’s season: playing from behind, with no Foster to turn to. He’ll put up consistently helpful fantasy numbers, with the upside for games like in Week 7.
Dexter McCluster, RB, Titans (available in 87% of MFL leagues)
If you’ve checked in to the Pick Up Joint more than once you know one area of the waiver wire we love to work is the pass-catching running back. With more and more leagues adding a PPR element it’s the easiest place to find RB value. So while everyone else is chasing Antonio Andrews’ 10-59 last week like he’s the second coming of Chris Brown in Tennessee, you can zag towards a back who’s been the top Titans fantasy RB each of the past two games even without including his nine catches in those two tilts. McCluster has more than half of Tennessee’s RB receptions and nine of the team’s last 11, so he’s pretty much nailed a lid on the third-down job. This isn’t a Tennessee team that’s going to be giving any back a monster workload on the ground, and game flow suggests they’ll be playing catch-up—both factors in McCluster’s favor.
ONE NIGHT STANDS
With the Eagles, Bills, Jaguars and Redskins all taking the week off, you may find yourself scrambling for fantasy love at a variety of positions. Here are some potentially high-scoring encounters to get you through to the other side.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings (available in 37% of MFL leagues)
We’ve seen the blueprint most teams will use against the Vikings, and it goes a little something like this: put 14 guys in the box and key on Adrian Peterson. Works most of the time, but it also opens up the back end of the defense for Bridgewater and a speedy set of wideouts capable of taking advantage. After averaging less than 25 passing attempts (and a paltry 168 passing yards) per game through the first three contests, Bridgewater has capitalized on both opposing defenses and the emergence of Stephon Diggs with at least 249 yards (and an average of 278) in each game while throwing at least 31 time in all three contests. The Bears have been decent against the run, and after being consistently embarrassed by Peterson in the past will certainly be focused on that task this weekend. That opens the door for Bridgewater to have a typical visiting QB game in Chicago: lesser yardage (Rodgers, Palmer and Carr all threw for 196 or less in the Windy City) with multiple touchdowns (that trio combined for nine scores). The bye weeks shouldn’t leave you hamstrung at the QB position, but if you’re streaming go ahead and push Teddy to the fore of the spout.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants (available in 95% of MFL leagues)
Okay, we’ll bite. Darkwa led a four-back committee in the Giants’ Week 7 win over Dallas, claiming roughly a third of New York’s 25 backfield touches. More importantly, he cashed in at the stripe with a touchdown. The hope is that Darkwa is the alternative to ineffective Andre Williams (4-13 last week, a hideous 2.9 yards per carry for the season). This week’s matchup presents a Saints defense that’s been significantly better against the pass the past two weeks, but is still soft on the run—especially at home, where all three foes have rushed for 100-plus yards at better than five yards a carry. There’s certainly risk with shared carries, but if you just lost Arian Foster and are missing McCoy, Murray or Yeldon this week there’s upide in the Darkwa side.
Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers vs. Colts (available in 47% of MFL leagues)
We tried Ginn in this spot last week against the Eagles, and while he saw the necessary targets (eight) his 5-59 wasn’t quite as gaudy a stat line as we were hoping. However, Indy’s secondary has been soft enough that we’re willing to jump back in the Ginn pool. Even after checking the Saints last week Indy has still allowed four 100-yard receivers, nine WR TDs and 11 different wideouts to top 50 yards. Moreover, the difference between Drew Brees’ injured wing and Cam Newton’s rifle should allow the Panthers to exploit an extremely banged-up Indy secondary. And who better to get deep on them than the speedy Ginn—who, by the way, is also the only Panthers wideout to see more than six targets in a game; he’s done it three times, including eight last week.
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers (owned in 98% of MFL leagues)
As the second back off the NFL draft board, fantasy expectations for Gordon were high. But he has yet to reach 100 yards from scrimmage in a game or find an NFL end zone—and now he’s operating on a bum ankle and ceding touches to Branden Oliver. And the Chargers still need to give plenty of touches to Danny Woodhead, their most effective back thus far. Looking down the road, when does Gordon’s stat line get healthy? In Baltimore? Against the Bears? On the bye? Dynasty and keeper leagues, obviously you are excluded from bailing on a young back with upside. But in redrafts, another month of plugging Gordon into your starting lineup likely puts you on the outside looking in when the postseason arrives.
Alfred Blue, RB, Texans
Like the swallows return to Capistrano, when Arian Foster goes down with an injury the fantasy football masses flock to Blue. Hey, the last time he started for an injured Foster he rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown so he must be the answer, right? Unfortunately for prospective Blue owners, the Buccaneers are not on Houston’s remaining schedule. Worse, there are maybe two favorable matchups for the Texans’ ground game the rest of the way: Week 12 against the Saints and Week 16 at Indy. Two starts over the next nine critical weeks of your fantasy season, for a back who is no lock to house all the touches; last week Chris Polk handled six touches for 18 yards while Blue saw three for eight. There’s another rub: Blue simply isn’t Arian Foster. Few are, but a look back over his game logs support that assertion. Over his past 16 games he’s had three with double-digit fantasy points and three averaging more than four yards per carry. The Texans are bound to be playing from behind and Blue has just four targets and two catches so he’s unlikely to augment rushing numbers with receiving stats like Foster could do. Ultimately there are maybe two games where you can plug Blue into your lineup with any degree of confidence, and they are one and two months away. By that time Polk or Jonathan Grimes might be better fantasy options, so no need to empty your FAAB for Blue this week.