Thanksgiving started out with yet more low scoring Thursday games but then the Cowboys and Indians suddenly cranked out 34 combined fourth quarter points in a game that maybe defied the effects of tryptophan and an extra helping of pie. And then the Colts showed the difference between the first overall pick in the 2012 draft and used their 2.24 pick on the
Pull up a chair. Here’s the next six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. WR Tyler Boyd (CIN) – The Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the offseason and replaced them with 30-year old journeyman Brandon LaFell and the declared junior from Pittsburgh who was a full-time starter every season. Boyd was the seventh wide out drafted and the hope was that he might eventually challenge LaFell for the #2 spot.
Now that A.J. Green it out, we are seeing more of Boyd who comes off his first NFL touchdown and caught six passed against the Bills. Boyd started out with 6-78 in Week 2 in Pittsburgh and ended with 4-79 in Week 6 in New England. But like most rookies, he’s been little used in most games. Now with Green out between one and six weeks, Boyd is getting more play and that should continue the rest of the way since LaFell is doing even less and at 3-6-1, the Bengals need to look at what they have for next year. The schedule is not good but there is a trip to Cleveland in Week 14 worth tracking.
2. RB Rex Burkhead (CIN) – Losing Giovani Bernard took a struggling offense and made it worse. Burkhead is the new “Bernard” but the Bengals have also designated Cedric Peerman as their I.R. Return player. Peerman is not expected to be anything more than the #3 back . Burkhead is in his fourth season with the team after being a sixth-round draft pick in 2013. He totals only 19 carries in his career.
Burkhead never did anything as a rookie and then stood behind Bernard and Jeremy Hill since 2014. He had a good junior year at Nebraska but was often injured as a senior. He ran a 4.73/40 at the combine and was projected by scouts to be “a solid NFL reserve back” that could be part of a committee which is maybe not want you want to hear. Regardless of the confidence expressed by the out-of-options Marvin Lewis, he’s never been more than cheap running back depth for four years.
3. WR Malcolm Mitchell (NE) – The Patriots almost never draft wide receivers and Mitchell was the 4.14 pick which alone speaks to his potential. Mitchell has been little used as the #4 wideout but caught four passes for 98 yards and one score in San Francisco which naturally attracted attention. the four-year starter for Georgia never had more than 58 catches for 865 yards and five scores in a season there. His production wasn’t higher due to the Bulldogs offensive scheme and injuries along the way including a torn ACL.
He is considered a well-rounded wideout with only average measurables (4.45/40, 6-0, 198 lbs.) and was dinged because of his speed despite his long touchdown last week. Playing with Tom Brady would help any wideout and Mitchell should be a factor next year. But he’s just one of about seven or eight different receivers each week and his only game of note was thanks to a 56-yard touchdown catch against a bad 49ers defense. It’s unrealistic to rely on anything similar happening but worth watching for what could be an upgrade in work load in 2017.
4. TE Jared Cook (GB) – Cook returned from missing two months with a high-ankle sprain and was instantly the lead receiver in the meeting with the Redskins. Cook ended with 11 targets – almost twice that of any other receiver – for six catches that totaled 105 yards and one score. That was Cook’e best game since the season opener in 2013 during his first season with the Rams. Cook originally played for the Titans for four years where he topped out at 49-759-3 in Matt Hasselbeck’s final year as a starter.
Cook was acquired to bring the tight end back as a part of the passing scheme in Green Bay. Remember too that his first three games his year totaled just six catches for 53 yards. It is exceedingly rare for any tight end to break out this late in the year (or at all after the first month or so of the season). Cook is worth owning to be sure for the potential alone. The Packers passing schedule is pretty tough with the Eagles, Texans and Seahawks up next. And the only other 100 yard game by Cook in the last five years was immediately followed by a one-catch, ten yard game.
5. WR Robby Anderson (NYJ) – The undrafted rookie from Temple is showing up in box scores lately for a team that desperately needs someone to step up and at least be average. Anderson is an interesting one that OC Chan Gailey recently said could become a good receiver. He only played two years in college but his senior year ended with 70-939-7. He missed his junior year because an academic suspension and was dinged for making great catches and yet dropping the easier passes.
Anderson ran a 4.34/40 and he is 6-3 which is a deadly combination. But he is also only 190 lbs. He needed maturing and is getting playing time with six targets in each of the last three games. Brandon Marshall is likely to move on next year and the Jets could be very different in 2017. What Anderson does in the final weeks will define if he will be a part of it. He’s already getting much more playing time than sixth-round pick Charone Peake. Robby Anderson was also the #1 NFL receiver in the preseason with 13 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
6. Arizona Cardinals receivers – Have to wonder what the Cardinals are going to look like next year and if that has any impact on the rest of this year since they are 4-5-1 and already realistically out of the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 years old and currently has a 10.1 YPC which is the lowest of his 13 year career. He has one more year on his current contract but Michael Floyd is a free agent next year. John Brown has all but disappeared and is out with a hamstring issue anyway. Jaron Brown is out with a torn ACL but was signed to a on-year extension.
Worse yet, Carson Palmer is on a pace for only about 20 touchdowns despite his career best 4671 yards and 35 touchdowns last year. This is Bruce Arians first bad year so he’ll get a pass but the Cardinals offense is only certain to have David Johnson next year.
And an extra point…
Last week I mentioned carrying two kickers into your playoffs – this week consider the same for your defenses. The reality of the playoffs is that it is “one and done” in head to head leagues. You have to maximize the points in every position every week. That may not mean letting a defense “just ride” every week. Options – never a bad thing.
Here are a few of the best match-ups for the normal three weeks of playoffs – Weeks 14 to 16. Look at whatever your defense is and if they have a bad matchup for one week, consider some of these better match-ups.
Week 14 – MIA (ARI), NYJ (@SF), SF (NYJ), DET (CHI)
Week 15 – OAK (@SD), BUF (CLE), ATL (SF)
Week 16 – SD (@CLE), LA (SF), JAC (TEN)