NFL Week 3 Fantasy Mailbag

My favorite ongoing social media sports joke may in fact be the Andrew Luck “Civil War Era” Letters when things go wrong…

Andrew Luck Civil War

“My Dearest Abigail,

It is with much regret I must report our efforts to protect the homefront against the Jet brigade of New York were for nought. General Pagano was displeased with my inability to conquer the Isle of Revis. We lost our position upon the field on at least three occasions and despite the valiance of Private Moncrief, our company was forced into retreat. We will regroup and look to return to prominence as we move toward Nashville, led by the youthful Colonel Mariota.

Your beloved,

Andrew”

Be better, Andrew. 

Quick Hits

  • In better quarterback news, the Tom Brady Revenge Tour rolls after he completely destroyed what would probably be his toughest matchup all year. Brady dropped 3 touchdowns and 466 yards against Rex Ryan’s Bills defense in Buffalo. For the 15th time, an NFL record, the Patriots won after Brady throws 50+ passes. In perspective, Peyton Manning has 17 games throwing 50 or more passes and has a 4-13 record doing so. Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Warren Moon are tied for second in wins throwing that many passes…just 5 each. 

Brady vs Bills

  • If you drafted Le’Veon Bell and had him stashed until this week, it’s time to unleash the beast. In 15 of the 16 games he played in 2014, Bell recorded 100+ total yards and/or scored a touchdown. He also was the league’s 40th leading receiver in terms of yards, and had the most among all running backs. Ben Roethlisberger owners should really like that as well. Bell will lace’em up against a Rams defense that allowed 6.5 yards per carry to Washington rookie running back Matt Jones a week ago. Welcome back, Le’Veon. 

Bell Week 3

  • If you were on the “Odell Beckham Jr’s overrated” bandwagon, get the hell off it. ODB (as I refer to him) came back in a hurry last week against the Falcons, catching 7 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown that looked like he ran threw a Super Mario star. This weekend, Beckham lines up opposite from a Washington defense that gave up the most touchdowns to wide receivers a year ago (23). In his only game against them, ODB caught 12 passes for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Mail Time!

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The universe is testing you Jason, and I know…It’s not fair. This coming from someone who started Peyton Manning in Week 1 and Tony Romo in Week 2. The WR1 epidemic is awful and hamstrings are a bitch, but I’m hoping you either drafted well or went hard on your waiver wire. There are a few adds I would recommend if you haven’t yet though:

Travis Benjamin helped Johnny Football out a lot last weekend, recording 115 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 3 catches. Won’t light it up PPR wise, but he has that “go-up-and-get-it” ability that got Josh McCown paid after his stint in Chicago. If you get return points in your league, Benjamin becomes all the more attractive against the Raiders.

Michael Crabtree is averaging 12 targets per game after his first two starts in Raider black and silver. Not a great matchup going against Cleveland, but you would think Amari Cooper will draw the Joe Haden coverage more. Cooper getting the majority of opposing secondary attention helps Crabtree’s production, as does a healthy Derek Carr that will be playing more catchup in ballgames than not.

Leonard Hankerson is doing what many Roddy White and Julio Jones owners in the past have become familiar with from Harry Douglas. When either of the Top 2 Falcons WRs were injured (or going ghost like White has a tendency to do), Douglas was a PPR machine. Hankerson had 6 catches and a touchdown on 11 targets last week. The Dallas defense may sober his admirers this weekend, but he has two great matchups afterwards against Houston and Washington.

Nate Washington is a notorious spot-start guy in Fantasy and that may be the case here whether DeAndre Hopkins goes against Tampa or doesn’t. Ryan Mallett threw 58 passes a week ago and Washington is averaging over 18 yards per reception. Probably a sleeper play, but it makes a lot of sense if you’re desperate.

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There’s an interesting conundrum with Alfred Morris and Matt Jones in the backfield for Washington. The running attack appears to be their offense’s bread and butter and Jones became the flavor of the week out-carrying Morris last week 19-18. What’s worse for Morris is that Jones actually catches passes and was trusted more late in the game last week against the Rams…I would go with with Pierre Garcon based on the targets he gets on short yardage downs, Morris’s role being diminished, the Giants being competent against the run, and Duke Johnson still being the #2 man in Cleveland.

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Glad you were able to walk threw #1…I know you’re probably frustrated with the guys who are likely your Top 2 drafted RBs, but this may be the week to reap the benefits of taking them. Latavius Murray has a plumb rushing matchup against a Browns defense that let Dexter F’ing McCluster run for nearly 100 against them and has allowed 300+ rush yards in 2 weeks. The Raiders should be feeding Murray until he pukes…Because the Lions have no clue how to use obviously their best back in Ameer Abdullah, I lean toward Justin Forsett in your flex. He’s the second most targeted receiver for the Ravens and 2nd on the team in catches too going up against a Bengals defense that has allowed the most running back touchdown receptions so far in this young season.

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I would start Forsett exactly for reasons I listed above…and then I look to Dion Lewis. The Imitation Game that is Bill Belichick’s running back strategy may have been cracked. Even after a fumble (GASP), Lewis was still getting love in the Patriot’s offense. He has over 100 combo yards in each of his first two games, and at least 5 touches of 10 or more yards in both as well. Lamar Miller just isn’t getting enough usage for me to feel comfortable playing him yet, which is super unfortunate.

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Among the two WRs, I lean toward Terrance Williams. After Romo went down last week, Williams looked like the Cowboys’ best offensive weapon. Brandon Weedon is pretty gross, but he will at least be held upright behind the Dallas OL. The Falcons secondary is also allowing the third highest passing percentage to quarterbacks so far this season…Now you can comfortably wait and see if Eddie Lacy can go Monday night against the Chiefs. If he does, you definitely start James Jones. If not, then there’s an argument to be had. The KC front 7 is better at rushing the quarterback than they are stopping the run, and James Starks would get plenty of work against them. Jones doesn’t get enough targets (just 7 in 2 games) for me to feel comfortable playing him over someone who is guaranteed touches. Go with Starks if he’s the #1 running back on Monday.

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I am assuming you meant John Brown and if so, you should start him. I know Larry Fitzgerald had a resurrection game, but consider who it was against. The 49ers are ripe for the taking when it comes to #1 WRs and John Brown has taken most of his reps in the X spot. Expect Carson Palmer to keep tossing bombs and for Brown to be at the end of quite a few…Now for your flex. The reasons above are why I don’t trust James Jones as much as many. Todd Gurley is finally ready to go and appears nowhere on the injury report. Gurley is part of a committee but I believe he has the highest ceiling among any of your options. If return points count in your league, go with Benjamin. He has the same number of targets as Jones, but more big play ability. If not, take a chance on Gurley. It’s early enough in the season where taking chances is fun and not terrifying.

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It’s #TyrodTime, my friend. We saw Drew Brees’s decline begin a year ago, and he overcompensated by throwing more than any quarterback in the league. Until he can do more than 1 TD and 1 INT in a game, can you trust him?…Let Taylor do his thing until the league figures him out.

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I won’t argue against Crowell in this situation. In a standard league, which I assume doesn’t count return yard points, James Jones does have a leg up on Travis Benjamin given the quarterbacks throwing to them. However if Vontae Davis is out this weekend for Indy, start Kendall Wright. As we saw last Monday, that Colts secondary is horrendous and it doesn’t get any better with Davis out. Marcus Mariota could potentially be having a field day this weekend.

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. 

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet