We’re past the quarter turn on the NFL season and after this week most leagues are a third way through their “regular season”. And as we always see, there’s been plenty of changes that we often could not have possibly foreseen. But – we cannot get comfortable quite yet with what we think about all of the players because change will continue. We’ve had players leave and some about to return. There’s plenty more football left to be played.
Pull up a chair. Here’s another six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. WR Mohamed Sanu (ATL) – Pretty big disappointment since Sanu was supposed to rekindle the Roddy White of old. He was supposed to do exactly what Marvin Jones is doing for the Lions. But Sanu hasn’t. He only totals 13 catches over four games. But there could be a light at the end of the stadium tunnel.
Sanu opened the year with five catches for 80 yards and one score against the visiting Buccaneers. He then sprained an ankle but player through it. The next week he has a separated shoulder and continues to play through that. These next two weeks should be brutal – @DEN and @SEA. And he won’t look good through that but the schedule clears up significantly after that and his shoulder should be better. Worth thinking about the next week or two.
2. RB Josh Ferguson (IND) – While the undrafted free agent was hyped early in the offseason, his interest greatly waned by the start of the season. And he’s not been used much – no more than three carries per game and worse yet, his seven carries totaled just five yards. But Ferguson is getting an increasing share of receptions. He ended with seven catches for 33 yards last week in Jacksonville. And more significant is that the Colts are using him much more over the two road venues (12 catches) than the two at home (5 catches). Worth remembering if you get into a bye week bind on a week he is playing an away game.
3. WR Eddie Royal (CHI) – Interesting that Royal’s first big game was during Brian Hoyer’s first start. And Kevin White lands on injured reserve so Royal’s promotion is likely for the rest of the year and HC John Fox suggested that Jay Cutler may not be getting his job back. That makes Royal of much interest as a starting wideout in an offense that wants to use him. He’s missed two practices with a calf injury though so he may not be a lock to play this week. But he is clearly the best of the remaining talent on the roster so keep an eye on him in case someone who owns him gives up and releases him. Particularly if he doesn’t play or is limited this week.
Cameron Meredith is a second year player that is getting more playing time now and at 6-3 he is a big target. But he has a sub-10.0 yard average every week and is not likely to step up into much more. Royal has enough talent to matter if he gets and stays healthy.
4. WR Brice Butler (DAL) – Dez Bryant is already having health problems again and may not play this week. Even if he does, he would be limited. It is notable that last week his back-up Bruce Butler was tied with Jason Witten as the most targeted Cowboy with nine passes (of just 32 thrown) and he caught five for 41 yards and a score. Butler only had one previous catch this year but he comes into play when Bryant leaves the field. They opted to use Butler last last year when Bryant left injured for the second time. In the two final games, Butler turned in 4-74 (@BUF) and 4-60 (WAS). Bryant’s true health is always hard to read since he won’t even tell the Cowboys how he is doing. If Bryant is out for any length of time this year, Butler becomes relevant.
5. QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) – His time is coming and maybe by next week. HC Chip Kelly finally said he would contemplate a change away from Blaine Gabbert after yet another loss last night. That was the fourth time in five games that Gabbert failed to throw for more than 200 yards and his five touchdowns on the season are balanced by six interceptions. The worst part of Kaep taking the reins would be even more coverage of every National Anthem. But he’s unlikely to do any worse. Gabbert’s stats would have been far better had he hit several wide open receivers.
But Kaepernick is visibly much thinner than last year because he switched to a vegan diet. He was lost last year with a torn labrum and he was benched for terrible play. He may take over and he may not be any worse but he likely won’t be that much better. This is a rebuilding year for the 49ers and their 2017 quarterback is probably not on their current roster. The general lack of receiving talent only further makes him unlikely to turn the team around.
6. RB DeAndre Washington (OAK) – Latavius Murray didn’t practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of turf toe and that makes him a risk to miss this week at the least. That would move DeAndre Washington up to being the primary back and reduce the committee approach to just he and Jalen Richard against the visiting Chargers this week.
Washington was the 5.04 pick by the Raiders and he is a bit smaller than usual at 5-8, 204 lbs.. And that is almost exactly the same size as Jalen Richard. Murray is a comparative giant at 6-3, 225 lbs.. Washington plays bigger though and he played for four years at Texas Tech and peaked as a Senior with 1492 rushing yards and 41 catches for 385 yards with 16 total touchdowns. His size was a reason why he lasted until being the 8th back drafted. Have to like that he has a 6.4 YPC on his 23 carries so far. That’s better than Murray’s 4.3 YPC.
The Chargers rank 31st against running backs. Washington should look really good after this week.
And an extra point…
One month into the season and we are already comfortable with who is good and who is bad, right? Let’s take a look at the ten best fantasy scoring running backs after Week 4 in 2015 and where they ended up on the year.
- Devonta Freeman (1)
- Jamaal Charles (52)
- Mark Ingram (12)
- Adrian Peterson (2)
- Matt Forte (7)
- Latavius Murray (11)
- Danny Woodhead (3)
- Joseph Randle (69)
- Dion Lewis (44)
- Karlos Williams (38)
So at least half dropped in value from Week 4 onward since overall year also figured in those hot starts as well. Which of the current top ten are the likely half that will fall anywhere from being a second tier back or worse not being a fantasy starter by year end?
David Johnson, DeMarco Murray, Carlos Hyde, Melvin Gordon, LeSean McCoy, DeAngelo Williams, Ezekiel Elliott, Isaiah Crowell, Tevin Coleman or Matt Forte? Averages say that three or four will be taking a big nosedive in value by the end of the year.
Lastly, it is always fun to see just how sustainable workloads are going to be. Consider the five busiest rushers from 2015 – Adrian Peterson (327), Doug Martin (288), Latavius Murray (266), Devonta Freeman (265) and Frank Gore (260). Only one runner with more than 288 carries.
As it currently stands, there are eight backs on pace for more than 288 carries. Considering that Peterson was the lone back with over 300 carries, is it likely that Ezekiel Elliott (376), Lamar Miller (372), Legarrette Blount (352), Todd Gurley (328), Matt Forte (324), Carlos Hyde (304), Melvin Gordon (292) and C.J. Anderson (292) can sustain their pace?