We’re now halfway through the NFL season, more or less, and since we have a TON of readers that play fantasy football league games, I thought I’d do a piece on some of the things you might be able to do to help boost your chances at making the fantasy playoffs in your league…and even perhaps win the crown!
By now, most of you have had injuries to one or more players and/or you’ve drafted some underachievers and are thin at one or more positions.
I am actually in FIVE leagues – 4 on NFL.com and one with friends and acquaintances on Yahoo. The Yahoo league team is the one I’ll refer to as the “control” team for comparison.
So far, I’ve been VERY lucky that the injury bug hasn’t really hit my FFL team. I drafted well early on, but had a whiff in the 4th round when I took David Wilson since all the established RBs had been taken off the board already. I’m in a 14-team PPR league and had the #1 pick in a “snake” draft.
I took Adrian Peterson, which was a choice that required exactly zero brain cells to make, but had to wait the 26 picks until I got my pair of picks – last in the second, first in the third round, and nabbed Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall with those two. David Wilson and Matt Ryan were next, but when the bottom of the sixth round rolled around, I took the BPA – Best Player Available – and that was Tony Romo. I had figured he would be a great back-up QB and spot starter playing the “matchup game.”
As it turned out, Matt Ryan didn’t get injured but a lot of his skill players were so his fantasy value has been diminished and I’ve been rolling with Romo for about a month. Barring a huge performance tonight by my opponent’s sole remaining player, Chicago RB Matt Forte, and a horrible performance by my own starter left playing tonight, the afore-mentioned WR Brandon Marshall, I’ll end the week with a win and will be 8-1 on the season, leading the league.
I mention this to illustrate that I do have some idea of what I’m doing in fantasy football. Read on for my insights into strategies and planning for next year.
I’ll start by saying don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade, assuming your trade deadline hasn’t just passed.
I’ve got a pending trade with, again, WR Brandon Marshall and a 6th-round pick in next year’s draft for RB Stevan Ridley and their 4th-round pick for 2014.
If you have an ongoing league where you can trade picks, try and be a great GM and think over the long term while helping your team in the short-term.
In my case, I do have a need for an RB2. While Ridley’s production is up and down, the Pats’ young WRs seem to be starting to get a clue. With TE Rob Gronkowski’s impact in his return, it should make things easier for the Patriots to run the ball. This is not to necessarily say that they will become a ground and pound team, it also means enemy defenses won’t be able to bear down against the run and force Brady to keep to the air.
I had other reasons for putting Marshall on the trading block. He’s been hampered by a bad hip early in the season, but it doesn’t seem to affect him that much now. The emergence of 6’5″ Alshon Jeffery (not Jeffries, it’s Jeffery!) means Marshall’s targets should be fewer now than at the start of the season.
Also, QB Jay Cutler has a bad groin injury which should limit what he can do when he returns. Keep in mind the entire team situation when making a change.
That said, let’s look at other options you might have without making a trade.
Look for under-the-radar running backs first
There should be some runners with some upside sitting on the waiver wire. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I picked up Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington. He had a breakout game last week (just before his bye) and led ALL NFL RBs in fantasy points scored. Every league has what I call “points chasers” – guys who pick up, say, TE Christian Fauria of Detroit when he had his 3 TD game a few weeks ago. They don’t consider the fact that Megatron was out and Fauria saw targets he doesn’t normally see.
Ellington’s situation is far different, however. The Cardinals’ offensive line hasn’t played that well, but Ellington can catch the underneath pass and run with it which is especially nice in PPR leagues. With his breakaway speed, it also means he could make you 8-10 points on a single long TD run and that’s something difficult to come by. You can’t COUNT on it each week, but the potential is going to be there.
Green Bay Packers’ RB Eddie Lacy is probably not going to be on the waiver wire by now, but his teammate, James Starks, can be a capable fantasy point producer even in a backup role. The Packers are now third in rushing yards in the entire league – a fact most FFL managers probably do not know of at the moment, but if you need help at RB, pick up Starks and stash him on your bench for now…or start him if you’re really needy. An injury to eddie Lacy means Starks’ value skyrockets and you’ll have him on your roster.
Another possibility is Tampa Bay RB Mike James. The Muscle Hamster has a torn Labrum, but he is thought to return after their upcoming game against the Dolphins.
A torn Labrum is NOT that huge of a deal for RBs. Doug Martin will find it difficult to extend his arms and catch passes, but that’s not his strength in the first place. In fact, I picked up James in the meantime and started him last week against the Seattle Seahawks, thinking I’d be lucky to get 5 or 6 FP from him.
He scored 27.26 FP for me and nobody – including myself – saw THAT one coming. However, I knew he would get his touches due to Martin’s injury, and the ‘Hawks run defense hasn’t been up to their lofty standards the past two weeks. Since my Andre Ellington was on his bye week, I had to start James, and it looks like he’ll be the difference-maker in me winning this week and not winning.
Unless you’re really desperate, stay away from all runners on both the Panthers and the Redskins – but for different reasons.
The Panthers just activated RB James Stewart and will be working him into football shape over the next couple of weeks. The issue here isn’t talent, it’s touches. When you consider the fact that the Panthers spread the running around, that Mike Tolbert is the team TD vulture, Cam Newton’s running ability and/or TD vulturing on occasion himself, and the presence of DeAngelo Williams, it all translates into no single runner for the Panthers getting a large number of carries or targets on passes out of the backfield.
In the case of the Redskins, the problem isn’t with their players either – it’s with their head coach.
Mike Shanahan has always been odd when it comes to utilizing his runners even going back to his days in Denver. Terrell Davis aside, Mike’s “Shanahanigans” with his runners permeate the team and have had many fantasy owners pulling out their hair like Larry of the Three Stooges trying to figure out which back is going to be the FP producer. Morris, Helu, and this past week even Darrel Young, a fullback, have had random great games.
It’s not worthwhile to play the lottery when trying to figure out which runner he’s going to feature in any given game and that’s his whole history as I’ve said. Stay away from them – far away.
Look at the Miami Dolphins runners. Chances are that Lamar Miller is on someone’s roster, but he has disappointed fantasy owners this season. See if Daniel Thomas is on the WW (Waiver Wire) because he’s the power back that has vultured a few TDs this season. He’s more or less the designated goal line back at 235 pounds and things look like the Dolphins are going to go to the ground game a bit more than they have been so far this year. As a result, Thomas might have some upside and is worthy of a spot on your bench if nothing else and if you’re thin at the position.
Houston RB Ben Tate is on the WW in a lot of leagues, including mine. Yes, he’s playing with four broken ribs, but at least he’s able to play. Arian Foster has a hamstring issue and over the past three seasons it’s something he has been battling. Hamstring injuries for running backs are a big deal as they need time to heal properly. Tate should see the “Texans’ share” of carries for the near future and has good power and is deceptively (4.43-40) fast.
If things are really bad and the WW is rather bare, you might finally consider picking up Shonn Greene. With Chris Johnson (who has lost his ‘CJ2K’ nickname by now) under-performing, QB Jake Locker looking like he’s growing into the position, and the fact that Greene sees the goal-line carries, the team has indicated that they’re wanting to get Greene more carries. This past week, he had a very respectable 13.7 FP so he’s worth a look in deeper leagues.
Wide Receivers on the upswing:
With Reggie Wayne’s ACL tear, another receiver for Indianapolis is going to have to step things up, and that guy appears to be T.Y. Hilton. Now, Hilton is probably on someone’s roster, but in smaller leagues he may still be available.
If so, grab him. He had a monster game against Houston last night with 30.55 FP on 7 receptions for 121 yards and 3 TDs (!!). He’s the team’s most dependable deep threat from the slot as outside WR Darius Heyward-Bey is still having issues with poor hands, frankly. It’s the same knock on him he had coming out of Maryland in the draft, but Al Davis was still alive and fell in love with his 4.3 speed. You still need to catch the ball, and DHB is all thumbs.
Coby Fleener looks like he’s on the upswing himself and although he’s a TE, he was Andrew Luck’s favorite target at Stanford so they have chemistry out the wazoo. Most leagues have a “flex” position (and, of course, the organic TE slot), so if he’s on waivers he’d be a nice acquisition to make at this point if you’re thin at TE or have one who is under-performing.
Believe it or not, the Jacksonville Jaguars have one receiver who is worth picking up. I drafted Cecil Shorts fairly late in my league’s draft and used him once or twice for bye week filler. Now that his opposite number, Justin Blackmon, is gone for the season due to substance abuse, Shorts should be the main target for Gabbert/Henne. Shorts likely won’t get you many monster games, but should at least be a steady producer.
Terrance Williams of the Dallas Cowboys has rather quietly become a nice deep threat for America’s Team and enemy defenses are going to focus on stopping Dez Bryant, so Williams should see single coverage. Also, with the ‘Boys’ issues running the ball and the fact that Tony Romo, choker or not, is a wonderful Fantasy League QB means Williams has chances while Miles Austin is hampered with his own injury issues.
Kenny Stills of the New Orleans Saints is but a rookie. However, injuries to the WR corps early on had pressed him into action and he’s now HIS team’s deep threat. As a rookie, he’s “still” (pun intended) learning, but he’s on a team that heavily favors the passing game and attention will be more on TE Jimmy Graham than anyone else, so Kenny has his chances for a monster game at any time going forward.
Patriots WR Aaron Dobson seems to finally be “getting it” in New England’s complicated offense. He’s yet another rookie but one who has seen his production vastly improve the past few weeks. He had his breakout game last night against a reeling Steelers’ defense with 5 catches for 130 yards and 2 TDs. If he’s on waivers, grab him up!
Kenbrell Thompkins, also of the Patriots, gets his share of targets and while he’s inconsistent, it looks like his chances will be there and at this point in the season, that’s as much as one can realistically ask for when combing the waiver wire for talent.
Finally, Giants’ WR Rueben Randle seems to be in a similar situation. He’s in his second season and “the light” seems to be flickering to “on.” With Eli Manning at QB, their running game in a shambles due to multiple injuries, and with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks drawing most of the attention of opponents’ defenses, Randle should see single coverage and I’ve seen make a couple of spectacular grabs over the past few weeks.
Hopefully one or more of these players may be on waivers in your own league and they’re worth taking a good long look at.
Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye