Scoring was up last week but then yet another Thursday game goes by with only 32 total points. We missing Rob Gronkowski now and while the Patriots will survive without him, it’s a lot tougher on fantasy teams without their first round pick. The toughest part now will be where to draft him next year. And again – he’ll be either a total bust or an incredible value with little chance of being anything of being an extreme.
Pull up a chair. Here’s the next six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. TE Daniel Brown (CHI) – He was an undrafted free agent with the Ravens last year where he caught six passes over four active games. Last week, he caught three passes for 24 yards and one score. After losing Zach Miller for the season, Dan Brown was the primary tight end in Week 12. It was his first playing time with the Bears.
The 6-5, 243 lb. product out of James Madison was a wide receiver who caught 42 passes for 606 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. He was a dean’s list student. Chances are he’s not going to do much but it is interesting that he’s a smart, tall ex-wideout who shows up in Matt Barkley’s first start. The Bears are likely to fall behind in most remaining games and that could call up the need for a receiving tight end more. He’s not there to block and he will at least get playing time that could help him stick around for 2017.
2. QB Matt Barkley (CHI) – Jay Cutler is gone for the season with shoulder surgery scheduled for this weekend. That brings Matt Barkley back after starting in Week 12 in the loss to the Titans when he passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns. He had only one start in 2013 and had never thrown any scores in his three years in the league. Now he will start the rest of the way and in that at least make a case for himself to remain on the team in 2017.
Barkley only had one touchdown last week but then scored his final two in the final six minutes after trailing 27-7. But trash time yards and scores all count the same. His remaining schedule is SF, @DET, GB and WAS. That should be interesting, particularly this week against the weak 49ers. He’s not likely to be a savior but he could end up surprising if only because of what he can do late in games that are already decided. If only considered as a cheap DFS play, he’s at least worth watching this week.
3. WR Dorial Green-Beckham (PHI) – Two weeks in a row, DGB has been a factor in the Philly passing offense. In Week 11, he turned eight targets into five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. For Week 12, he became the leading receiver with six catches for 82 yards on ten targets. He benefited from Jordan Matthews leaving with an ankle injury. But the Nelson Agholor experiment has at least been suspended temporarily if not for the rest of the season. That Green-Beckham is playing like Agholor was supposed to is notable. Carson Wentz needs to find a receiver to grow old with and Matthews is in his final contract year in 2017. Any progress now pays dividends next year.
4. WR Marquess Wilson (CHI) – Three Bears in one week? Well – they play the 49ers this week and the team will also use these final weeks to make 2017 decisions. Marquess Wilson is in his fourth season with the Bears and started showing up last year when he had four games with 80+ yards. But a foot injury ended his season in Week 12 and he would re-injure it in the offseason and land on injured reserve. But he’s back now and ended his first real playing time for 2016 with a team high eight catches for 125 yards and one score for a career high. Alshon Jeffery is out for the SF and DET match-ups these next two weeks.
It is encouraging that he became Barkley’s primary receiver in his first start. And he has minimal competition with only Cameron Meredith who has only totaled nine catches over the last five games. This is a contract year for Wilson and there is every reason for him to make use of these final games.
5. TE Martellus Bennett (NE) – Since Rob Gronkowski is out for the season, Bennett becomes the starting tight end down the stretch and through fantasy playoffs. If he can get Gronk-quality targets, he could be a fantasy gold mine. If he just repeats the 3-22 stat line from last week, forget about him. What to expect? Hard to say since the Pats are rather infamous for inconsistent workloads outside of Tom Brady and Gronkowski.
Gronk was venue-independent. He was good anywhere against anyone. But Bennett so far has a pattern – all three 100+ yard games this year were at home. On the road six times, he only once had more than 35 yards (CLE). There is a tendency for tight ends to be more productive at home because on the road they are used to block more. Bennett’s next games are LA, BAL, @DEN and NYJ. There’s three games that history says Bennett has a better chance at fantasy value.
6. TE Jermaine Gresham (ARI) – This doesn’t make any sense but it bears mentioning. The Cardinals historically rank poorly in using tight ends for years. Even when they say they intend to use the position more it has never happened. They brought in Jermaine Gresham last year and he only scored once on his 18 catches for 223 yards. The 28-year old ex-Bengal was good for four to six touchdowns and up to 737 yards in a season during his five years in Cincinnati. He had very minimal use this year as usual until mid-season.
Gresham has caught 14 passes over the last four weeks and topped 30 yards each week. He scored in both Weeks 11 and 12 and had ten targets in the loss to the Falcons. This is notable because the Cardinals are on the search for pass targets and injuries and poor performances have driven the pass offense on a downward trend all year. Changes are coming to the offense next year and apparently this season as well.
And an extra point…
This is important.
If you are not in contention for the playoffs in any of your leagues, please faithfully manage your team. These next weeks are when contenders become champions. It isn’t right or proper or even ethical in my opinion to let a team go. We’re already playing against random head-to-head match-ups using players we cannot control. Don’t give anyone a free win because you’ve lost your motivation after a disappointing season.
Play it out!