Fantasy Mailbag 2016: Week 9

Tim Hightower is one of the best stories in football for the past couple years. He was out of football completely for 4 years, joined the Saints last season and recorded 504 yards from scrimmage with 3 starts. Last week, Mark Ingram fumbled in the first quarter and Hightower took over for 100+ yards on the ground. If they’re willing to feed Hightower the rock for 3 quarters over a healthy former Heisman winner and regular starter, it’s hard to imagine the touches will dip too much.

Hightower says he didn’t feel comfortable in the system last year. He seemed pretty dang comfortable down the stretch when Fantasy owners needed him most, right?

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The Saints play the 49ers this week, who are giving up more rush yards than anyone in the league this season…1,136 to be exact. The Niners are on a record pace, and not in a good way. Hightower should be hungry to eat, regardless of his role on Sunday.

 

Mail Time! 

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Based on the potential for volume, I lean toward Charcandrick West. While Jacksonville is proven to be very good against pass catching running backs, the Chiefs offense goes through their starter.

When it comes to wide receivers in the flex, if I don’t seem them producing in the Top 25 at the position I can’t justify starting them. It’s hard to feel confident about Jordan Matthews against Janoris Jenkins. Mark Ingram’s time-share status makes it difficult to start over an expected full-time back like West.

 

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The Lions are too bad against tight ends to not start Kyle Rudolph.

 

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I am not an oddsmaker, so I never know what to do with questions like that. Ben Roethlisberger took more snaps each day leading up to his game against the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expects him to start, barring a random setback.

Have more Fantasy lineup questions? Don’t hesitate to ask on Facebook or Twitter

Michael’s Note: Now that the World Series is over, I should have more time to be more timely answering Fantasy Football questions and can include more content. Thank you for your patience during the Cubs’ historic run. 

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Fantasy Mailbag 2016: Week 6

The highest scoring non-quarterback in Fantasy Football right now is David Johnson (aka #DJ2K). He added two touchdowns and 157 rush yards to his total last week against San Francisco.

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Johnson has gained over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game, so far this season, and faces a Jets defense that has allowed 16 receptions, 125 yards and two touchdowns to running backs in the last two weeks. He may not see as many carries as he got against the 49ers (27) because Carson Palmer is set to return, but you can count on his receiving skills to do some heavy damage against the J-E-T-S…blah blah blah.

Mail Time!

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TE: The perennially slow starting Seahawks offense seems to have found a connection between Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham. Graham has recorded back-to-back 100-yard performances for the first time since 2003. The Falcons are also the second worst (to the Browns) at giving up TDs to the position.

Flex: Jordan Howard recorded the 9th most yards from scrimmage by a rookie in Bears franchise history. Names like Anthony Thomas, James Allen, and yes…Walter Payton…produced better games in their first year, and just by up to 30 yards. In terms of matchups, Howard doesn’t have an easy one in Jacksonville. They have allowed 104 rush yards per game and only 2 touchdowns on the ground. Based on the volume Howard gets in the Bears offense (running and receiving) you can’t let him sit.

DEF: I’m not sure about the Panthers in the long-term, due to their young secondary being taken advantage of nearly every weekend and having one takeaway in their last 3 games. Short term, their matchup with the Saints has shootout potential, and that’s bad for any defense. I like your Titans pick against Cody Kessler and the Browns. The Titans are making a lot of noise with back-to-back multi-interception games and ranking 6th in sacks.

 

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Steve Sr. is (1) not a tight end and (2) dealing with an ankle injury that knocked him out of last week’s game. Go with James White.

 

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If I learned anything last week, it’s not to doubt Devonta Freeman. Against the best defense in football, Freeman totaled 123 yards and a touchdown. You can look at the yards per carry as a negative, but 26 touches is proof he is Atlanta’s every down back (with Coleman getting his work receiving). The upside is in Freeman’s favor, while Frank Gore will give you either 75+ yards or a touchdown…like he has in every game so far this season. Up to you.

 

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TE: In the Brian Hoyer era for Chicago, Zach Miller is averaging 6 catches, 61 yards and a touchdown. While Hoyer is spreading the ball around, he does seem to have favorite targets in 3rd down situations and Miller is one of them. Keep riding that train as Zach Ertz is facing a defense that gave up less than 60 yards to both Gary Barnidge and Dennis Pitta.

Flex: Matt Forte is that guy we all want to love (with good reason) but we really shouldn’t. He hasn’t done anything close to his monster Week 2 and Bilal Powell is taking more and more pass targets away from him. I also don’t think this will be a good week to play Travis Benjamin. As you know, Broncos are probably looking for blood on Thursday Night Football this evening. Jordan Matthews is your best call.

 

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Well, Quincy Enunwa would’ve been a pretty great pickup. Sammie Coates would be outstanding, if you can find him. Outside of those two? Chris Hogan, Jeremy Kerley and Devante Adams are decent week-to-week fill-ins, but I would try to make a trade if you are looking for a dependable solution for the rest of the season.

 

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Melvin Gordon is going to get the touches against a Broncos D (that has given up the 10th most points to RBs) and has averaged a score in every game. If I’m looking for a safer play though, it’s Kelvin Benjamin against the Saints. They have allowed 86+ yards to 6 different receivers in 4 games and are letting quarterbacks just CHUCK IT on them. Love the shootout potential at the Superdome this weekend, Cam Newton or not.

Have more Fantasy lineup questions? Don’t hesitate to ask on Facebook or Twitter

Fantasy Mailbag 2016: Week 3

After all the running back injuries last weekend, it seems the best course would be to tread lightly…when claiming a fill-in.

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Fozzy Whittaker, Panthers

After Jonathan Stewart went down with a hamstring injury, Whittaker took over with 100 yards rushing on 16 carries (6.25 yards per carry). Stewart isn’t expected to be out very long, but you can’t expect the Panthers to increase the potential for Cam Newton to get hurt on more quarterback draw plays. Whittaker has the talent to be effective with a lead back’s workload. Cameron Artis-Payne and Mike Tolbert will be in the rotation for touches, but the majority should go to Whittaker…who recorded nearly a quarter of his 3-year career rush total just last week.

Jerick McKinnon, Vikings

There are 3 running backs, not named Adrian Peterson, who are looking to shine on the Vikings roster. Matt Asiata is a goal line vulture, with short-yardage power. Ronnie Hillman landed from Denver, not too long ago, and has the ability to be a flash-in-the-pan every once in a while. Then there’s Jerick McKinnon, who may be the most talented of the 3 and should be counted on for his pass-catching and breakaway speed. Your best bet is McKinnon for those exact reasons, and because the Vikings could be playing from behind against Newton and the now high-flying Panthers offense.

Kenneth Dixon, Ravens & Kenyan Drake, Dolphins

These two rookie running backs should be on your radar. Dixon is on his way back from injury, but worth stashing once he returns. Neither Justin Forsett or Terrance West have done enough to claim the #1 RB role in Baltimore, and Dixon is one of the most talented players to come out of the draft…Going down the coast, we find Drake getting an opportunity to earn #1 type work over Jay Ajayi while Arian Foster deals with the thing that’s plagued him since 2013…injuries. Drake ran in a touchdown last week, and Ajayi has been a healthy scratch for Dolphins once already this season.

Mail Time!

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RB2 – You’ve got really good problem on your hands. Both players have great matchups, but I like Gordon’s situation more. The Chargers signed Dexter McCluster to fill in for the Woodhead role, but realistically he still needs to learn the offense. The Colts are also incredibly banged up on defense. The 2015 version of myself wouldn’t believe I’m saying this, but go with Melvin Gordon.

Flex – I understand the concern not wanting to stack a RB & WR from the same team, but Ken Whisenhunt has brought some serious fire power back to the Chargers’ offensive play-calling. On top of Woodhead and Allen being hurt, the Chargers may also be without Antonio Gates this weekend. Travis Benjamin should be a target monster.

 

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I would respond by asking, who is available? The Chiefs had a solid bounce back last week with 2 sacks and 2 picks, while also holding one of the more potent offenses in football to under 20 points. The Jets looked pretty dangerous a week ago against a pretty messed up Bills squad, but they could be just as prone for turnovers…as FitzMagic proved at the end of last season. Tweet me your other Defensive options at @Mike_PiFF03.

 

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Not Golden Tate. As a Golden Tate enthusiast before the season, I’ve got pretty hard feelings toward his production in the first two weeks.

Atlanta’s secondary has been LIT UP 2 weeks in a row, and Brandin Cooks is just the spark for another deep bomb of a TD (or 2). Jordan Matthews has recorded 100 yards or a touchdown in 6 of his last 8 games. You can trust him more than Demaryius Targaryen, which is very tough for me to say.

 

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FLEX – Gordon for the reasons above.

WR – T.Y. Hilton becomes more valuable with Moncrief being injured. I love Will Fuller but it’s hard to trust players to play at their best on Thursday night.

 

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I don’t love going against Carson Palmer, but I do love most quarterbacks facing the Saints secondary. They will likely be without P.J. Williams and Delvin Breaux and it’s obscene that Eli Manning didn’t score more points on them. Go with Matt Ryan.

 

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I know Sproles is tempting, but you must resist. Ryan Matthews is proving that his nose for then end zone is too strong to deny.

Have more Fantasy lineup questions? Don’t hesitate to ask on Facebook or Twitter

NFL Week 7 Fantasy Mailbag

Before we get into the meaningful and important information you are dying for in order to set your lineup, can we enjoy the worst play call in the history of football once more?

Colts Fake Punt

The Colts have become an easy target as of late, especially on this site, but you can’t help but ask “How did you think this was going to go?”. Fortunately, the internet blessed us with a fantastic TECMO reenactment for us to watch over and over again.

Of course Bill Belichick’s Patriots are no stranger to teams acting a fool against them. For #ThrowBackThursday, they recalled another great football folly that their opponent this weekend (and Mark Sanchez) will never forget.

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Quick Hits

  • This year’s “Hard Knocks” team is on the struggle bus, as the Houston Texans are just 2-4 on the season so far and Bill O’Brien’s seat is rising in temperature by the week. Fantasy owners with DeAndre Hopkins on their roster aren’t mad though. Hopkins is riding a 4-game streak of 100+ yards (148 or more in his last 3), has only caught less than 8 passes once this season, and is on pace to top 190 targets this season. Since 2007, only Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson have accomplished that.

DeHop

  • If you kept Todd Gurley stashed on your bench after drafting him, you’re reaping all the benefits now. In just the last two games, Gurley has run for more than 300 yards and has accumulated more 20+ yard runs than Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, and Devonta Freeman have all season. Gurley also has a plum matchup this weekend against a Browns team that has given up more rush yards than anyone in the league.

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  • Do they even run the ball in San Diego anymore? Philip Rivers (Batman Woo!) threw 65 passes last week against the Packers, completing 43 for 503 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rivers has thrown for 350+ yards in each of his last 3 games, 4 of his 6 games this season, and you can’t expect him to slow down against a Raiders secondary that’s allowing 308 yards per game passing this season. The fact Rivers leads the league in pass attempts this season, 42 per game, is encouraging for Rivers owners…Not so much if you have Melvin Gordon, but very much so for Keenan Allen.

Mail Time!

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I included both your questions together for one reason and one reason only…

#BORTLEKOMBAT!

I plan to rock that hashtag throughout the Jaguars/Bills games in London this weekend, but that’s not why you called…

#BortleKombat has been on full assault the past two weeks as Blake has thrown 7 touchdowns and 4 picks in that time. His matchup this weekend is pretty sexy this week as he takes on Rexy (see what I did there) and his Bills defense. The Allens (Robinson and Hurns) are are licking their chops over facing a secondary that has given up the 3rd most passing touchdowns this season…However, everything is coming up Breesus as the King of the Drews is finding comfort in tight end Ben Watson and the downfield tandem of Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks. What’s worse than the Bills pass defense? The Colts pass defense. They have given up 300+ pass yards for the past 4 weeks and Vontae Davis can’t cover everyone.

Two answer both questions I’m going Breesus > #BortleKombat > Eli’s Face.

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When Andre Johnson went to Indy, I was pumped to see how he would with a real quarterback. Unfortunately, he looks like an old school tight-end in an Andre Johnson jersey. Unless you can handcuff him in a trade, Johnson’s value is simply for dropping in order to pickup a more useful player.

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I am assuming you are the one picking up Forte and Lewis, and if that’s the case…DO IT! People have stashed Dez Bryant hoping he’ll come back and tear things up again. I doubt Bryant returns this week, but he isn’t too far away. Until Tony Romo returns, I’m concerned about who is throwing him the ball. Dez will catch anything that’s thrown within 5 feet of him though…Matt Forte and Dion Lewis down the stretch are a hell of a starting RB combo. If Team 1 has Marshawn Lynch and Chris Ivory already, I understand them making the deal. I don’t see a loser, but Team 2 is getting the better value heads-up.

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Anyone who asks me about starting Antonio Brown will get this from me.

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Big Ben is practicing and his status is questionable. Yes, I’m saying there’s a chance…Regardless though, Landry Jones proved he can sling it last week. Brown is arguably the best football playing in the sport. Despite some weird weeks lacking targets, you have to play him. Both Roethlisberger and Jones will target him and should do so.

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I like Dion Lewis a lot, but not this week against the Jets. On the other sideline, I love Chris Ivory. His aggressive running has helped set up the surprisingly efficient passing game for New York. He also has the 3rd most rushing yards in the league at this point.

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Stefon Diggs has been a sexy waiver name this week and rightfully so. Finally, someone not named Adrian Peterson is producing for the Vikings and he has a nice matchup going against a Lions defense that even let Marquise Wilson of the Bears blow by them last week. I like Robert Woods, but I’m very skeptical of EJ Manuel throwing as opposed to him running. Prioritize Diggs > Woods.

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This is now a weekly question with you, and I’m okay with that…Anywho, you have one more week with Pierre Garcon as a #1 wideout, as it looks like DeSean Jackson is a week away from returning. Go ahead and start Garcon as Jordan Matthews has a rough matchup against Carolina this week.

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Melvin Gordon is such a tough read because you don’t know if the Chargers even want to run at this time with their banged up offensive line. At least I know he’s getting the ball. If it was a PPR league, I would recommend The Duke, but he’s only used in passing down situations and is now sharing a backfield with not only Isaiah Crowell but Robert Turbin as well. The only thing I trust from the Browns against the Rams offense is Gary Barnidge in the end zone. Go with Gordon.

I, like you, also picked up Christine Michael to have stashed and I’m also going to wait a week to see how the Cowboys use him. A young athletic back behind that Cowboys offensive line should be great, but your combo of Bell and Murray makes him more of a luxury than a necessity. He’s too unknown on the field to confidently trot him out. Going against the Giants is a nice measuring stick though.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

NFL Week 6 Fantasy Mailbag

The Arizona Cardinals are playing like a Madden team on Easy Mode right now. If you started a whole lineup of Cardinals players last weekend, I have a feeling you would have done pretty well…

QB – Carson Palmer: 11/14, 161 pass yards, 3 TD

RB – Chris Johnson: 103 yards

RB – Andre Ellington: 63 yards, 1 TD

WR – Larry Fitzgerald: 5 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD

WR – John Brown: 4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD

TE – Darren Fells: 2 catches, 25 yards, 1 TD

Flex – David Johnson: 3 carries, 6 yards, 2 TD

DEF – 2 Forced Fumbles, 4 INT, 1 Sack

K – Chandler Catanzaro – 6/6 PAT

I don’t know if the Cardinals will sustain these video game numbers all season, but I don’t see it slowing down this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have the worst pass defense in the league at this point, so Carson Palmer owners should be pumped. St. Louis boasted the only viable defense Arizona faced and beat them at home, however…

Quick Hits

  • Tonight the Atlanta Falcons take their 5-0 record to the Super Dome, and hope to stay undefeated with the help of Devonta Freeman. In Freeman’s last 3 games, he’s averaging 179.6 yards from scrimmage per game (539 total). He’s also leading the league in touchdowns with 8, 7 over those last 3 games, all on the ground. Freeman faces a Saints defense that is allowing the 3rd most rush yards in the league.

Freeman Week 6

  • In the last 3 weeks, Browns TE Gary Barnidge has recorded 20 receptions for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns. His pass catching total in that time is HALF of his entire career total, and he’s 30. Barnidge’s production has attributed to his quarterback’s incredible run as well. Josh McCown is averaging 384 yards and 2 touchdowns over his last 3 games, but now runs into a buzz saw with Denver coming to town. The Broncos pass defense is tops in the league with the kind of pass rushers that always seem to bring McCown back to Earth. Barnidge will be his best option to survive as the Broncos allowed 60+ receiving yards to Eric Ebron, Travis Kelce and Clive Walford.

Barnidge Week 6

  • The #TomBradyRevengeTour heads to where it all started this weekend. I imagine the Colts had this game circled on their calendar in the preseason, expected it to be Brady’s first game after a 4-game suspension, and would try to settle whatever score they had over a football they thought wasn’t inflated enough…In reality, the Colts are dealing with Wyatt Earp on his rampage in Tombstone. They’ve only won when their franchise quarterback has sat out and Brady is throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions coming in with fully inflated footballs. Brady is also throwing to two matchup nightmares in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Edelman is averaging 99.75 yards per game, 8.5 catches, and has 3 touchdowns as well. 

Mail Time!

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I start with Duke Johnson Jr, especially in PPR. Denver is very good against the run, yes, but they are susceptible to pass catching backs. Isaiah Crowell got his numbers last week against Baltimore, but Johnson had as many touches and was the feature back down the stretch. I expect Cleveland to be trailing and throwing. The Duke is their man in that scenario.

Next I lean toward Ronnie Hillman, partially because Ameer Abdullah is in the winless Jim Caldwell’s doghouse for fumble issues. Hillman goes against a horrendous Browns run-defense that is allowing 5 yards per carry. If neither Hillman or CJ Anderson can get it going against Cleveland, I would then recommend looking elsewhere.

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When the Chargers are trailing, Danny Woodhead is getting a majority of the workload from Melvin Gordon. I know you’re fully aware of what the Packers are capable of scoring-wise, so you should expect Woodhead to get plenty of work. I don’t trust Abdullah’s usage at this point in the season like I do Theo Riddick’s.

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As I pointed out earlier, the McCown thing has been fun but he’s in for a rude awakening this weekend. While the Falcons defense is improved, the only decent quarterback they’ve faced is Eli Manning (that was a struggle for me to type). Drew Brees has thrown 335+ yards in 3 of his 4 games and seems to have figured something out with Willie Snead and Ben Watson downfield. Go with the proven player in a better matchup this weekend, Breesus. If McCown can match his production from the past 3 weeks against Denver, then I’ll start to believe in his hype.

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Really aren’t making this easy, are ya?

Hillman is your best option against a bad Cleveland run defense. Already said why I don’t like Abdullah. Golden Tate could burn the Bears secondary, which has improved in coverage recently, but I don’t like Stafford against their pass rush. And Pierre Garcon has a one-way ticket to Revis Island.

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QB: Is Blake Bortles available? He’s probably better than all four in a spot start going up against Houston. Out of the 4 though, at least McCown done something worth writing home about in recent weeks. Tyrod looks doubtful this week, so I would prioritize McCown (1) then Mariota (2).

WR: Already mentioned why I don’t like Pierre this week, and really it’s now or never for Jordan Matthews. In their first meeting, Matthews had 8 catches, 105 yards and 1 TD against Philly. I don’t know if he’ll get the same numbers, but the gameplan is there…as opposed to Garcon vs. a stellar Jets pass D.

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(1) – Breesus.

(2) – Sammy Watkins says he’s planning to return, and I believe him. I would also go with him over Martavis. Shaky quarterback situation, but at least he’s the #1 pass option. Both he and Bryant are taking on tough pass defenses, and Bryant has to work his way into a WR group with Antonio Brown and Michael Vick’s new favorite target, Darius Heyward-Bey.

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Alshon Jeffery is FINALLY getting work in practice, which is encouraging to me. If he plays, he’s a must-start with the way Jay Cutler is playing as of late…If he doesn’t go, Rueben Randle (if healthy) is your next best option. Stevie Johnson becomes even less valuable with Antonio Gates back (and Philip Rivers’ obsession with Gates). And Torrey Smith is currently stuck in the worst offensive dumpster fire in the league.

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Not a great passing matchup for either quarterback at all. I see both quarterbacks having to make more plays with their feet than their arms, but I also see Russell Wilson benefitting more from Marshawn Lynch returning for play-action. That, plus the defensive backs that Cam will be throwing against, gives Cam the slight edge.

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There really isn’t a team in the league who doesn’t have viable fantasy options. I mentioned San Francisco being a dumpster fire, but they do have Carlos Hyde finding life again against a tough Giants defense.

Bad teams also always adjust their identity as the season continues, which allows the emergence of diamonds in the rough. As the Jaguars went on their slow death march a year ago, they committed to running the ball and Denard Robinson became a consistent 100 yard rusher for at least a month. And as team’s with bad defenses consistently have to play from behind, there’s always a wide receiver benefitting from the “catchup” mentality with garbage time targets and yardage.

Players individually are a different story. I gave up on Jonathan Stewart after 3 weeks of no production, and I don’t blame other owners for doing the same with CJ Anderson. When a top half draft pick doesn’t give you much return after the first quarter, you either try to flip him, or relegate him to your bench and wait for him to turn it around.

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RB: Crowell’s game against Denver is way less effective than the Duke’s. That alone has me leaning toward Miller, and I like your thinking. New play-calling and a new attitude can’t hurt Lamar Miller’s usage.

WR/T: I am no longer a James Jones hater like I was for the first 3 weeks of the season. His 5 touchdowns with Rodgers tossing them makes him WR2 value for anyone. Then I go with Tyler Eifert against a Buffalo defense that his given up too much against tight ends this season…If your league gives points for returning yards, Jarvis Landry shoots the top of your group.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

NFL Week 1 Fantasy Mailbag

FOOOOOOTBALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!

I know that’s exactly how you woke up this morning.

Your drafts are in. You’ve either comfortably sat on your lineup or you’ve been toying with who is best for your flex position every minute of the day….The latter is much more likely.

Quick Hits

  • While the NFL season kicks off tonight, so does the #BradyRevengeTour. That hashtag is meant to be tongue in cheek, but Tom Brady has an excellent matchup this week against a Steelers defense in transition to a new system and the same bad personnel as last season. 9 of the 10 quarterbacks they faced last season threw for multiple touchdowns and they were lit up by the BILLS QBs in Week 3 (gross). 

Brady vs Steelers

  • Opposite Brady will be Ben Roethlisberger, who would benefit greatly from a shootout. No Le’Veon Bell means an iffy backfield, and more throws downfield to arguably the best offensive weapon in football…Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger averaged 2.6 touchdown passes last year and faces a Patriots defense that’s now without Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. 

Big Ben vs Patriots

  • Another game I’m incredibly interested in is the Broncos vs. Ravens, and not for Peyton Manning vs. Joe Flacco…Two of the league’s breakout running backs last season were CJ Anderson and Justin Forsett, and neither were starters in their opener a year ago. Forsett led all starting running backs with 5.4 yards per carry. Since taking over #1 duties week 9, Anderson averaged 132.1 yards from scrimmage per game. Now that Forsett’s OC a year ago is guiding Anderson, it will be fun to see how the two follow up their pro bowl seasons. 

CJ Anderson TD vs Forsett

  • Giants vs. Cowboys could be quite the show as well. Tony Romo OWNED the Giants last year throwing 7 touchdowns in both games against them. In their first meeting, Dez Bryant caught 9 passes for 151 yards and then 2 touchdowns in the second. It was against the Cowboys though where Odell Beckham Jr. really came onto the scene. Beckham scored 2 touchdowns in the first game, then 10 catches, 146 yards and 2 touchdowns the second time around. Similar to tonight’s NE vs PIT game, this matchup has barn burner potential. 

Odell vs the Cowboys

Mail Time

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I think the highest ceiling from this group will eventually be Ameer Abdullah, but Lions have a mirky RB situation with Joique Bell still listed as the starter and Theo Riddick #2 on the depth chart. My rule with Week 1 is to go with your proven players while watching how your bench guys develop. DeVante Parker has a great matchup against Washington, but there are only so many balls to go around with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings. Wait and see on his usage…I lean toward Danny Woodhead over Charles Johnson. Woodhead is Philip Rivers’s guy on passing downs and will be relieving rookie Melvin Gordon plenty against the tough Lions run defense. I trust Woodhead getting more touches than Johnson, as the Vikings will be focused on riding Adrian Peterson against the Walking Dead 49ers.

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Start with Jeremy Maclin. I really liked how he and Alex Smith looked working together in the preseason, and he’s the undisputed #1 guy for an offense that needs to use it’s receivers more in the red zone…Both Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson have tough secondary matchups this week. Johnson is in a crowded WR group going against the Bills and Marshall will draw Joe Haden. I like Marshall as a red zone option more than Johnson though. Obviously Johnson has the better QB throwing to him, but how much will he be thrown to?

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Appreciate ya, Matt…Despite my worry of Melvin Gordon going against Detroit, Alfred Blue may have an even tougher one against Kansas City. I also don’t get the impression that the Texans are all that in love with Blue, considering they were willing to try 3rd string cornerbacks at running back in the preseason. Let Gordon loose out there.

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Although he is getting the call with Martavis Bryant out, I don’t trust Markus Wheaton yet like I do two starting running backs. Washington is a dumpster fire, but you can feel better about their running game with Alfred Morris way more than their quarterbacks and wide receivers. And take advantage of having Jonathan Stewart while he’s healthy. The key in Week 1 is starting guys that you know will be getting touches, and plenty of them. Only 5 times did Wheaton catch 5 or more passes last season.

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Amari Cooper is going to be one of the best wide receivers in the league and he’ll show it sooner than later. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will be this weekend as his quarterback may be eaten alive by the Bengals front 7. Jordan Matthews should be strong play though as the new #1 WR in Philly and going against a Falcons pass defense that was putrid a year ago.

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I don’t love Brandon Marshall at all and I don’t think his quarterbacks will be helping him much or vice versa. However…the Washington offensive line could easily get Kirk Cousins killed this weekend against Ndamukong Suh, and D-Jax simply won’t get great opportunities to make plays for you. Your chances are better with Marshall. 

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Wide Receivers

As the NFL trends toward more passing and scoring, the receiver position has become more and more valuable. If you play in a PPR league, receivers are as important and some even more than running backs.

There are a handful of WRs who are worth taking before the big producing quarterbacks (Luck & Rodgers), and one who can be as good as any player in the league. Here’s my Top 40 to help you prepare for your upcoming draft. 

1. Antonio Brown, PIT

Antonio

2014: 1,698 receiving yards, 129 catches, 15 TDs, 319 return yards

Brown is probably the best offensive weapon in football. Incredible speed, always has the ball thrown his way, and he scores from everywhere on the field. Has also proven it 2 years in a row

Pick: Middle-Late 1st Round

2. Odell Beckham Jr, NYG

ODB

2014: 1,305 receiving yards, 91 catches, 12 TDs, 171 return

ODB accumulated those numbers playing less games than most starting NFL receivers. Absolute difference maker for fantasy teams and carried some to the playoffs and championship last year.

Pick: Late 1st Round

3. Demaryius Thomas, DEN

Damaryius

2014: 1,619 rec yards, 111 catches, 11 TDs

Manning has a year or two left and he’s going to go out guns blazing. Thomas is his go-to guy with both Julius Thomas and Welker gone. Expect him to get the ball early and often.

Pick: 2nd Round

4. Dez Bryant, DAL

ns_08cowsGIANTS_26

2014: 1,320 rec yards, 88 catches, 16 TDs

Dez is the best in the red zone. Without a designated feature running back, expect Romo to be throwing more than last year and likely throwing to Dez.

Pick 2nd Round

5. Julio Jones, ATL

Julio Jones, Quentin Jammer

2014: 1,593 rec yards, 104 catches, 7 TDs

Julio used to have an annual injury that holds him out for significant time but he held his own pretty well last year. One of the fastest guys on the field, even when injured, and Matt Ryan’s favorite target.

Pick 2nd Round

6. Calvin Johnson, DET

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints

2014: 1,077 rec yards, 71 catches, 8 TDs

It’s weird ranking Megatron behind multiple guys, but he is getting older and coming off of an injury plagued season. Healed up, he still has the ability to win games by himself, and I trust him the most on the Lions roster.

Pick: Late 2nd Round

7. AJ Green, CIN

AJ

2014: 1,041 rec yards, 69 catches, 6 TDs

Big reason for Andy Dalton’s drop-off was AJ Green’s injury last year. Green is back healthy and will be as solid as ever if Cincinnati sets him up with their running game.

Pick: Late 2nd – Early 3rd 

8. Randall Cobb, GB

Cobb

2014: 1,287 rec yards, 91 catches, 12 TDs, 112 return

Ridiculous how Cobb and Nelson were able to have such high numbers last season, but that’s how it works in the Green Bay system. With Nelson down, Cobb jumps up in value, but by how much? That’ll depend on how the next man up performs?

Pick: 2nd-Early 3rd Round

9. Alshon Jeffery, CHI

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

2014: 1,133 rec yards, 85 catches, 10 TDs

Alshon has a chance to be a superstar with Brandon Marshall gone. He’ll be expected to play a Demaryius Thomas role in the new Bears system that will be set up by the run. Eddie Royal in the slot will also help get Jeffery open. He’s missed time in the preseason due to injury but is expected to be good to go for Week 1.

Pick: 3rd Round

10. TY Hilton, IND

T.Y. Hilton

2014: 1,345 rec yards, 82 catches, 7 TDs

Colts still added a few more weapons for Andrew Luck, but T.Y.’s still the #1 guy. He’s always downfield and, if anything, Andre Johnson will help him get more open.

Pick: 3rd Round

11. Mike Evans, TB

NFL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills

2014: 1,051 rec yards, 68 catches, 12 TDs

Jameis Winston looks okay so far this preseason and is a much better quarterback than Josh McCown. All Mike Evans needs is someone who can throw the ball down field and he’ll go get it. 

Pick: 4th Round

12. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU

Hopkins

2014: 1,210 rec yards, 76 catches, 6 TDs

This will be the guy that jumps up people’s draft boards because of Hard Knocks. This time, I think it will be justified because DeAndre is the best player on that offense not named Arian Foster (who is out because of injury). Brian Hoyer was just named the starting QB, and Hopkins should feel better about his consistency. 

Pick: 4th Round

13. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos

2014: 1,404 rec yards, 101 catches, 9 TDs

Sanders went under the radar as one of the most productive WRs last year, and he’s going under the radar here too because of the low expectations for Peyton Manning. Just like Randall Cobb a year ago, Sanders gets open when Thomas gets more attention. Could be a really good WR2.

Pick 4th Round

14. Brandin Cooks, NO

Cooks

2014: 550 rec yards, 53 catches, 3 TDs

Cooks started last season as one of the best rookie WRs in a great class…and then got hurt. If Breesus is going to bounce back after an up-and-down season, Cooks will be the key to that. Best athlete on their team.

Pick 4th or 5th Round

15. Jordan Matthews, PHI

Matthews

2014: 872 rec yards, 67 catches, 8 TDs

Philly is trying to sell people on Matthews being a stud, but the truth is that there is nobody better ahead of him. If Jeremy Maclin’s #1 receiver production a year ago is any indication, the Chip Kelly system may pay off big time for owners. 

Pick 5th Round

16. Andre Johnson, IND

Andre

2014: 936 rec yards, 86 catches, 3 TDs

Andre dealt with a really bad quarterback situation in Houston the past few years but also wasn’t getting open in the end zone. With so many weapons demanding coverage for Indy, he will have better opportunities to score. Andrew Luck will see to that.

Pick 6th Round

17. Golden Tate, DET

Golden

2014: 1,331 rec yards, 99 catches, 4 TDs

Based on last year’s production, Tate should ranked higher. A lot of that was thanks to Megatron either being hurt or drawing coverage away from him. I wouldn’t expect the same catch and yardage numbers, but he would make a solid low end WR2/Flex guy.

Pick 6th Round

18. Julian Edelman, NE

Edelman

2014: 972 rec yards, 92 catches, 5 TDs, 299 return

Tom Brady’s favorite receiver will have to step it up if #12 misses any time. Not very consistent but gets a lot of catches for PPR and will pick up those random return yards that make you mad if you sat him. (Personal experience)

Pick 6th or 7th Round

19. Brandon Marshall, NYJ

Brandon Marshall

2014: 721 rec yards, 61 catches, 8 TDs

Brandon Marshall’s starting quarterback just got punched in the face and is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. The Jets don’t have any quarterbacks and Marshall isn’t getting any younger either. I would also be worried about his injuries from last season being a sign that he may miss time again. Still has potential to have big TD games, but I wouldn’t depend on him for yardage.

Pick 7th Round

20. Amari Cooper, OAK

Amari

Rookie

Definitely the best of the rookies in this year’s class. Could give you great value if he plays to his potential right away. Fast and has knack for getting to the end zone.

Pick 7th Round

21. Keenan Allen, SD

Keenan

2014: 783 rec yards, 77 catches, 4 TDs

Allen was one of the most targeted players in the league last year but wasn’t making the catches. He settled in later on, but the Chargers seem like a run heavy team going into the season. With Eddie Royal gone, he’ll definitely get more attention from Rivers (Batman-Woo!)

Pick 7th Round

22. DeSean Jackson, WAS

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

2014: 1,169 rec yards, 56 catches, 6 TDs

I don’t like the Washington offense at all. RG-III is a broken player and that makes DeSean a hit or miss player. He’ll have great games because of speed, but then he’ll be invisible because nobody can get him the ball.

Pick 8th Round

23. Sammy Watkins, BUF

Sammy

2014: 982 rec yards, 65 catches, 6 TDs

Sammy is clearly the best receiver in Buffalo, but the bad trio of quarterbacks battling for the starting spot make you worried as to how consistent his production will be. They are going to run a lot and that may open things up for Sammy. WR isn’t a very valuable position on Rex Ryan teams.

Pick 8th Round

24. Jarvis Landry, MIA

Landry

2014: 758 rec yards, 84 catches, 5 TDs, 1,158 return

Landry was an under-the-radar productive rookie last year and I expect him to play even better in his second year. With Wallace gone, he’ll be much more depended on by Tannehill.

Pick 8th Round

25. Davante Adams, GB

Davante

2014: 446 rec yards, 38 catches, 3 TD

Davante just became a lot more valuable with Jordy being lost for the season. Week 1 will be an audition for him to see if he can fill the role opposite Cobb. He had flashes last season but also dropped some important passes. The best bet is to draft him later and take the risk than pass up on Rodgers’s next best WR.

Pick 8th Round

26. Victor Cruz, NYG

Cruz

2014: 337 yards, 23 catches, 1 TD

With two knee surgeries in as many years and currently a calf injury that is keeping out of the Giants’ 3rd preseason game, Victor Cruz seems like a liability going into the 2015 season. Cruz is confident he’ll be good to go in Week 1 and could put up his old production with defenses paying more attention to Beckham. 

Pick 8th Round

27. Eric Decker, NYJ

Decker

2014: 962 rec yards, 74 catches, 5 TDs

Oddly, I trust Eric Decker more than I do Brandon Marshall in New York. You can see Marshall getting double-teamed and opening things up over the middle and deep for Decker, which is something that works better for Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback…Marshall is going to hate Fitzpatrick.

Pick: 8th Round

28. Jeremy Maclin, KC

Maclin

2014: 1,318 rec yards, 85 catches, 10 TDs

Maclin was one of the best receivers in the league last year. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is his quarterback now. Kansas City WRs didn’t catch a TD pass until the backend of the season. Maclin may improve those numbers reuniting with Andy Reid, so he could be steal here.

Pick 8th Round

29. Roddy White, ATL

Roddy

2014: 921 rec yards, 80 catches, 7 TDs

Roddy is a pass catching machine and sometimes gets to the end zone. His issue in recent years is staying healthy, but should benefit from Julio getting most of the attention.

Pick 9th Round

30. Mike Wallace, MIN

Wallace

2014: 862 rec yards, 67 catches, 10 TD

Wallace is very good at finding the end zone and is the most proven among the Vikings receivers. As Teddy Bridgewater gets more comfortable as an NFL quarterback, I would trust Wallace the most in the group.

Pick 9th Round

31. Steve Smith Sr., BAL

Smith Sr.

2014: 1,065 rec yards, 79 catches, 6 TD

I expect Steve Smith to go way too early in drafts because he’s a name people know. It’s his last season, so he’s going to try to ball out, but that’s only going to work if Joe Flacco can get him the ball. The WR group in Baltimore is pretty thin so if Flacco is playing well, so will Smith Sr.

Pick 9th round

32. Anquan Boldin, SF

Boldin

2014: 1,062 rec yards, 83 catches, 5 TDs

Boldin is a badass and he has good chemistry with Kaepernick. You can expect, the Niners to play a lot of catchup this season because their defense is so depleted, which means Boldin will be getting a lot of targets.

Pick 9th Round

33. John Brown, AZ

NFL: St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

2014: 696 rec yards, 48 catches, 5 TDs

Among the Cardinals receivers, John Brown is the Home Run player for Carson Palmer to throw to downfield. May be boom or bust if Michael Floyd returns and stays healthy. Theoretically can be open a lot if Larry Fitzgerald and Floyd draw most of the coverage. 

Pick 10th Round

34. Vincent Jackson, TB

VJax

2014: 1002 rec yards, 70 catches, 2 TDs

I always feel like VJax would be a better player on a different team, but he makes due with the quarterbacks throwing to him. If Jameis Winston is able to read defenses quickly, VJax will benefit from it. Mike Evans will be the first option, but the floor isn’t very low on VJax either.

Pick 10th Round

35. Allen Robinson, JAX

ARob

2014: 548 rec yards, 48 catches, 2 TDs

It’s easier to trust Jacksonville RBs than their WRs, but Allen Robinson can be a stud. His problem is staying healthy, as he broke his foot last year after heating up. Blake Bortles can sling it though, so keep an eye on A-Rob late.

Pick 10th Round

36. Eddie Royal, CHI

Royal

2014: 778 rec yards, 62 catches, 7 TDs

I think Eddie Royal is going to surprise a lot of people this year with the Bears. He’s reunited with Jay Cutler, and both players had their best statistical seasons playing together. Royal provides something Cutler hasn’t had in years, which is a true slot receiver. So as Alshon Jeffery is getting covered deep and Martellus Bennett is drawing attention, Royal will be open in the middle.

Pick 10th Round

37. Kendall Wright, TEN

Wright

2014: 715 rec yards, 57 catches, 6 TDs

Kendall Wright has been inconsistent for a long time, and part of that is thanks to bad quarterbacks being in Tennessee. Early reviews though, are that he’s playing well in practice with Marcus Mariota and that’s encouraging. If Mariota transitions well, he should be able to extend plays with his feet and that helps Wright downfield a lot.

Pick 11th Round

38. Stevie Johnson, SD

Stevie

2014: 435 rec yards, 35 catches, 3 TD

Stevie was in a bad situation with San Francisco, as that offense turned out to be a mess. In San Diego, he’ll be depended on a lot more especially with Antonio Gates out for the first 4 weeks. Coaches say that he can average 7+ catches, which could make him a steal this far back.

Pick 11th Round or later

39. Nelson Agholor, PHI

Algohor

Rookie

Agholor is expected to do big things for the Eagles as they selected him in the first round. He’s now taking 1st team reps, and should be a starter Week 1. If Chip Kelly’s weird offense works, Agholor could be big if Jordan Matthews is getting the attention most people expect him to.

Pick 11th round or later

40. Michael Floyd, AZ

Floyd

2014: 841 rec yards, 47 catches, 6 TD

Floyd is returning from a dislocated finger injury but is on track to be ready for Week 1. If he can stay on the field, Floyd can do big things as John Brown takes the top off opposing defenses. Potential steal late in your draft. 

Draft 11th Round or later. 

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Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet