The Thursday night game was another ho-hum affair with no individual posting many fantasy points. And then came the final eight seconds.
DE Myles Garrett – The final play for the Steelers erupted into a surreal skirmish between numerous players. Mason Rudolph took exception when he was slammed to the ground on a meaningless final play and apparently tried to yank on Garrett’s helmet (maybe his hand was stuck). Football is a violent game and emotions can get out of hand. But Garrett ripped off Mason’s helmet and conked him on the head with it. Kudos to Mason having a hard noggin since I’m confident I’d still be laid out on the field if I got hit like that.
It did not just cross a line. It sprinted past and into an area that could be argued as a pure criminal assault. Garrett, C Maurkice Pouncey, and DT Larry Ogunjobu were all ejected with six seconds left to play. They will all be fined and further suspended. If Garrett plays this year, it would be a very bad PR move for the NFL. The best message to send is for him to be indefinitely suspended which would mean this year and then he’d be re-evaluated.
RB Kareem Hunt – Two weeks from returning from suspension, his role is now certain. Hunt is not just a third-down back, he’s one of the busier ones in the NFL. After his two games, he’s totaled 13 receptions for 90 yards while adding four to six rushes. Over 16 games, that would be a pace to end with 104 catches for 720 yards. But he’s killed off Nick Chubb’s role as a receiver. Last night, Chubb had no catches and he only turned in two in the previous week. Chubb scored a touchdown in only three of ten games, so those lost reception points have an impact on his fantasy value.
Notable too is that Antonio Callaway was released yesterday due to yet another substance-abuse violation, and his replacement Rashard Higgins never had a target. And in the last two games, the tight ends accounted for only three catches in total. The Browns are now Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Hunt when they pass. The trio accounted for 30 of the 33 passes thrown.
TE Ross Dwelley – George Kittle hasn’t practiced this week because of his knee and is looking like a likely scratch. That makes the second-year undrafted Dwelly an interesting start on Sunday. His career-best game was in Week 9 at the Cardinals when he caught four passes for 29 yards. Kittle caught six passes for 79 yards and one score in that game so for the position, they combined for ten catches on 12 targets for 108 yards and one score. That was against the No. 32 defense versus tight ends – the Cardinals. The same team that they will face again on Sunday, at home without Kittle.
RB Brian Hill – Devonta Freeman hasn’t practiced this week because of his foot injury and is expected to not play. The Falcons paced Ito Smith on injured reserve last week so suddenly the 6-1, 219-pound fifth-round pick of 2017 becomes the Falcons starter this week and possibly next. He only totaled 31 carries for 194 yards (6.3 YPC) over his first two years. Hill never had more than eight carries in any game until last week when he turned in 20 rushes for 61 yards at the Saints (No. 4 defense vs. running backs). He’ll go against the Panthers No. 27 defense this week. Freeman is only 5-8, 206 pounds and Smith is 5-9, 195 pounds. Hill gets to be a rare “big back” for the Falcons facing one of the worst rush defenses this week.
Rookie Running Backs – We studied them, argued about them, pushed them onto our sleeper lists and eventually drafted them. How have they done so far?
Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery rate as fantasy starters and Miles Sanders and Devin Singletary are close but have lacked every-week consistency. Lile most years, the first back drafted is usually a top-ten producer. Nothing after the third round has mattered much and that too mirrors past seasons. Rookie running backs lag the last couple of years but remember that Jacobs was the only first-rounder and Sanders was the only second-rounder. Darrell Henderson has been a whiff by the Rams but otherwise, four of the top five were drafted in the first five. Not many deeply drafted surprises.
Rookie Wide Receivers – I’ve always said that if you never pick a rookie wideout, you’d be making a smart move about 95% of the time. Of course, I always draft them hoping for that “5%” guy and then quietly swapping them for some other scrub with better potential on the waiver wire.
Ironically, the best rookie wideout wasn’t even drafted. But Preston Williams landed on injured reserve after eight games. None of these wideouts have been very consistent and D.K. Metcalf recently ascended to the top with three touchdowns in the last two games. Both Terry McLaurin and Marquise Brown had hot starts to the season but cooled down. I know next season, I will draft more rookie wideouts after they are hyped all summer. And I will regret it 95% of the time.