Fantasy Devil's Advocate: Turning the general RB wisdom on its head
Week 2 is in the books and it’s already bumpy out there.
We lost Danny Woodhead for the season to an ACL tear. That is the second Charger in two weeks with the same devastating injury. Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus. The Vikings have not ruled him out for their next game at Carolina, but his presence seems unlikely. Arian Foster suffered a groin injury. Jonathan Stewart hurt his hamstring and ankle. We have no idea as to what’s going on with Chris Ivory. Jamaal Charles still isn’t playing.
And that’s just the running backs.
Based on two weeks of play, opinions were formed and some will zig, but I like to zag. Here are some common points of view, and the contrarian angles to consider, as we head into Week 3. There’s a lot of running back talk this week, as that’s where a lot of intrigue lies. We’ll get to other positions at the end.
“Jerick McKinnon is the clear handcuff for Adrian Peterson.”
But get ready for Matt Asiata to break a few fantasy hearts.
After Adrian Peterson got hurt Sunday night, McKinnon became the hot conversation topic in leagues where he’s available. Many of our readers are in a variety of deep-league formats where getting McKinnon on waivers is impossible. According to FantasyPros.com, McKinnon went off the board as RB60, the 185th pick. Asiata was RB117, the 475th pick. In other words, you’re in a monster league if you can’t get Asiata off waivers.
McKinnon did play in 16 of the 63 offensive snaps when the Vikings played Tennessee in Week 1. He got one carry that went six yards, he caught one of his two passes for three yards and logged one drop. Then in Week 2 he played in 12 snaps, carried the ball twice for two yards and caught his lone target for negative yardage.
In Week 1, Asiata played in nine snaps, carrying the ball four times for 13 yards. In Week 2, he played 12 snaps, carried the ball six times for 13 yards, and caught his lone target for 11 yards. Summing that up, Asiata out-touched and out-produced McKinnon in both outings.
Neither of the players put up stat lines to remember, and that’s because the Vikings offensive line has struggled. Mightily. Through two weeks of action, the Vikings now have three of their linemen rank in the bottom five of their position in PFF grades. Matt Kalil (36.9), Andre Smith (40.0) and Brandon Fusco (38.1) are all struggling badly, and expensive free-agent acquisition Alex Boone (54.2) isn’t much better than that level. The takeaway here is that McKinnon is going to be the popular pickup, but don’t be surprised if Asiata vultures him some for however long Peterson is out, and it’s possible Asiata is actually the better fantasy producer over that time.
“The Cincinnati Bengals have abandoned the run.”
Or they came up with game plans that would beat their opponents.
If you’re a Jeremy Hill owner, you know that the Bengals have not been getting yards on the ground. Between Hill and Giovani Bernard, they combined for a total of 95 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in two weeks. Bernard is a big factor in the passing game, so this lack of a run game hits Hill the hardest. Hill started off last season with 63 yards and two touchdowns at Oakland, but he didn’t go over 60 yards again until Week 8.
But this season isn’t about Hill at all. It’s about their opponents. In 2015, both the New York Jets’ and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defenses were excellent against the run. The Jets gave up a league-low four rushing touchdowns on the season, and the Steelers were second in the league, only giving up six. New York also gave up the second-fewest rushing yards on the season (1,335) and the Steelers gave up the fifth (1,459). Based on the numbers so far in 2016, it looks like the Jets and Steelers will again be among the best at defending the run.
In fact, if you’re in an injury situation or have some worrisome choices at running back, I’d suggest asking the Hill owner what they want for a trade. Week 3 will be brutal against Denver, but then the Bengals play Miami and then they travel to Dallas. They have a favorable schedule moving forward so Hill should be on your radar.
“Hold onto Jeremy Langford.”
Or trade him away to someone who isn’t tracking snap counts.
Hey, this site was all over the lack of explosiveness that is Langford. Monday night, he was exactly the guy we thought he was. He carried the ball 11 times for 29 yards and caught one of two targets for six yards. He did score a touchdown, but he also fumbled the ball.
And yet, Langford is a top-20 running back on the season.
In Week 1, Langford played in 55 of the team’s 57 offensive snaps. Last night he only played in 31 of 53 snaps. While rookie Jordan Howard didn’t even get one snap at Houston, he played in 11 versus Philadelphia. Ka’Deem Carey only played two snaps at Houston, and 10 versus Philadelphia.
Considering Langford’s fantasy production on paper, and the stockpile of running back injuries that happened in Week 2, this is the perfect time to construct a Langford trade. But you need to act fast because it’s getting clearer and clearer that Langford is in trouble.
“Use your waiver priority at the top of the season on breakouts.”
But if you waited out last week, you’re in a great spot today.
Last week I went on FNTSY Sports Network and said to wait if you had waiver priority because I didn’t see anyone that had a clear path to consistent fantasy production. I went on the PFF Fantasy Slant podcast and went into more detail.
I’m of the mind that waivers and FAAB money are best saved for “must add” situations. Usually those situations entail a major injury. The idea is that you just drafted the best team possible based on your research and circumstance and I don’t like when people rush to judgement in Week 1 as to whether a player is a bust.
Admittedly, Tyrell Williams looks poised to play a significant role in the Chargers offense after he caught three of his five targets for 61 yards and a touchdown. If you were a Keenan Allen owner, hopefully you were all over that. If you weren’t, you’re probably going to be fine not having him on your roster.
But this week, the levies broke. There are plenty of waiver wire options that you should target, especially if you’re one of the teams affected by injuries. Here are a few of your best options:
Sam Bradford, QB, Minnesota Vikings – Actually, we simply can confirm that Bradford is stream-worthy. In his first game, during primetime and a stadium opener, Bradford was cool as a cucumber and threw for 285 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings – See above.
Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart suffered hamstring and ankle injuries last week. Whittaker went in against San Francisco and carried the ball 16 times for 100 yards and he caught three of his four targets for an additional 31 yards. Whittaker didn’t score and he did fumble, so even though Artis-Payne was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season, it wouldn’t surprise me if they threw him in the mix.
Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams – Putting aside the desire to avoid the entire Rams offense, over the last two games Britt caught six of his nine targets for 94 yards. He averages 11.9 yards per aimed target. And he’s averaging 0.47 points per opportunity in PPR leagues, tied for 24th in the league. You could do worse.
Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers – If this guy is still on waivers, you need to pick him up immediately. In Week 2 he caught three of his four targets for 29 yards and a touchdown. In Week 1 he caught five of his seven targets for 31 yards. Those target numbers are “must add” territory for any tight end.