Entering into Week 9, we are in the middle of the NFL season and well on the back-nine for the fantasy season. We’re still losing running backs but at least the Thursday night game had a lot of points.
Pull up a chair. Here’s the next six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. WR Taylor Gabriel (ATL) – The Falcons grabbed Gabriel off of waivers after the Browns released him during the final cut down in early September. He was an undrafted free agent who spent two seasons in Cleveland where his rookie season of 37-629-1 was his best. Gabriel is only 5-8/167 pounds so he’s better suited for slot work. What makes him interesting is that he’s scored in each of the last two games.
Gabriel caught 3 of 3 targets in Week 8 for 68 yards and one touchdown. On Thursday night, he caught 5 of 5 passes for 52 yards and added two runs for 24 yards and a 9-yard touchdown. It is great that he’s catching every pass thrown his way for the last two weeks. But he’s too small for a lot of work and at best shows up for a handful of plays and can even run the ball on occasion. Mohamed Sanu will offer much more consistency and production in a non-Julio Falcon receiver.
2. RB Charcandrick West (KC) – .Spencer Ware has not practiced as of Thursday and it is looking very likely that he’ll be a scratch and that Charcandrick West will get the start. Here’s a refresher on West:
He is in his third season though never played as an undrafted rookie. Last year when Jamaal Charles was injured in Week 5, the Chiefs initially turned to West as the starter and he and Knile Davis struggled against the Vikings. West would rush for a touchdown and have over 20 carries for the next three weeks. When he was injured in Week 11, Ware stepped in with a two touchdown effort and handled things until he too was injured. By the final game of the year, they split the workload with Ware scoring once.
Ware won the primary back-up job this year during the preseason. But now that he is out, West is in. The team prefers the bigger Ware (5-10/229) to the smaller West (5-10/205). West is a nice start this week against the visiting Jaguars but the Chiefs already know what they have in both backs. Ware will return to being the starter when cleared from his concussion.
3. OC Pat Shurmur (MIN) – The torch was passed to Shurmur… actually more like thrown at… but what to expect with a coordinator change at mid-season? Probably not a lot. The Vikes were not happy with how the offense performed in 2015 and the speculation was that ex-head coach Shurmur was brought in as an offensive-coordinator-in-waiting. Turner assumedly saw the writing on the wall and decided to let Shurmur deal with an offense that had one of the worst offensive lines and that had already lost their star running back and quarterback.
It is fair to speculate how involved Shurmur was with acquiring Sam Bradford when he was drafted by the Rams and was Rookie of the Year in 2010 when Shurmur was the offensive coordinator there. He would reunite with Bradford in Philly as well. Shurmur was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles for 2013-2015 during Chip Kelly’s regime but really helped to run his offense. When he ran the offense in St. Louis during 2009, Steven Jackson ran for 1416 yards and four scores but no receiver had more than 589 yards. In 2010, Bradford would throw for 3512 yards and 18 touchdowns, Steven Jackson ran for 1241 yards and six scores and the best receiver only had 689 yards. He had little to work with not unlike with the Vikings.
No matter what, the Vikes have sub-standard running backs, a bad offensive line and a quarterback who never regained his rookie year luster. There is an expectation of having shorter throws and faster developing plays but it is hard to have much optimism on what it can do.
4. RB Darren Sproles (DET) – Last week against the Cowboys, Sproles had a big game with 86 yards on 15 carries and five catches for 17 yards. He had numerous impressive runs through the heart of the defense. By contrast, Ryan Mathews only gained 10 yards on four runs with one touchdown. He had a 1-yard catch as well. During the week, HC Doug Pederson said he would consider replacing Mathews with Sproles as the primary back. There are two considerations to this;
- What does primary back even mean for the Eagles? After seven games under the new coaching regime, the weekly rushing leader was Ryan Mathews (4), Sproles (2) and Wendell Smallwood (1). In five games, the Eagles relied on four different runners. Since the season opener, the “primary back” has averaged 13 carries per week.
- Sproles is a 5-6/190 back who is 33 years old in his 11th season. He had one good game. Considering the last seven years, he just had his second game with 15 carries or more. Sproles is very well known and not some rookie find. He is what he is. And that is a a low-volume, change of pace back who has averaged three catches per week.
Not likely some mid-season savior.
5. WR J.J. Nelson (ARI) – Nelson is on bye this week but when he returns, he will replace Michael Floyd as a starter along with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. That is noteworthy in an offense that can pass as well as the Cardinals can. Nelson was a fifth-round pick last year from UAB who is only 5-10/156 but has run a 4.28/40. As a rookie, he only caught 11 passes but averaged 27.3 yards per catch. He was brought into the game plan in Week 7 when he was thrown seven targets and caught three for 84 yards versus the Seahawks. In Week 8, he turned 12 passes into 79 yards and two scores.
Nelson was a four-year player for Alabama-Birmingham but never had more than 42 catches in a season. He ended college with a 19.6 YPC average. He’s worth holding and even starting in the future so long as his workload doesn’t vary dramatically week-to-week. But it could – he’s another small, really fast wideout who will never have high catches per game but will do a lot with the ones that he gets.
6. TE Zach Miller (CHI) – May not mean that much overall, but the first game back for Jay Cutler and Zach Miller was the most targeted (10) receiver in the win over the Vikings. He caught seven for 88 yards and one of every three passes went to Miller. Granted – the Vikings secondary handled the wideouts and forced that issue. But once Miller returns from his bye this week, he’ll be facing @TB, @NYG, TEN, SF, @DET, GB and WAS. That is one of most favorable schedules for tight ends.
And an extra point…
Gotta love drafting kickers. Considering kicking points per game, here are where the top kickers were drafted in the Average Draft.