Working the Waiver Wire, Week 8: I’ll shut up now; go pick up Tre Mason

I’ve been very hard on Tre Mason and never expected such a quick ascent up the Rams’ depth chart.  But in life, we accept and own our mistakes and move forward.  And while I’m not in love with Mason the prospect, the current state of the fantasy RB landscape dictates I’ll be adding him and adding him hard.

PRIORITY WAIVER WIRE ADDS

RB Tre Mason, St. Louis

RB Benny Cunningham, St. Louis

Jeff Fisher indeed seems willing to overlook his holes (and Zac Stacy’s talent) and give him serious run.  And he’s responded, notching 125 yards on 23 carries over the last two weeks.  Stacy looks like an afterthought at the moment, and Mason is the primary ballcarrier, but I still don’t see a great young back at this point; Mason is very much a work in progress.  He remains a mess in the pass game, and he coughed up a HORRID fumble at the end of Sunday’s win – a carry-it-high fumble that could have all but handed the game to Seattle near field goal range.  In a normal fantasy season, I’d be very cautious about Mason, a shaky rookie in a crowded backfield, but this is 2014.  The few usable RB2s out there are either dropping like flies or failing to earn game-changing opportunity.  If Mason wasn’t scooped up last week, then bid away; something like 20-23% of your budget seems about right, and feel free to cut ties with an unpredictable RB4 type like Steven Jackson.  Just note that his grip on the lead job may be tenuous – especially  if he keeps fumbling (a big problem in college).

It appears Cunningham has also surpassed Stacy in the pecking order, and while he seems entrenched behind Mason, he’s worth a look in deeper leagues.  He’s the clear passing down option while Mason learns the NFL game, and that translated to five catches and a touchdown Sunday.  Still, he’s at best a suicidal weekly option, garnering only two carries yesterday and just 3.9 YPC on the year.  Owners in 14-team leagues are wise to roster him, bidding around 7-8% for his services, but he’s unlikely to pay any dividends while Mason is running well and Stacy is looming.

(photo: Chron.com)

(photo: Chron.com)

RB Anthony Dixon, Buffalo

RB Bryce Brown, Buffalo

This… may be hard to sort out.  Of course, both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller went down with serious injuries on Sunday.  Jackson will be sidelined at least through the Week Nine bye, and Spiller is all but done for 2014.  So who picks up the slack?

Let’s first look at Brown (pictured at left), who will probably be the popular choice on waivers.  There’s plenty of impressive-looking stuff on his resume.  He has one hell of a pre-NFL pedigree as a five-star high school prospect and top-two RB.  He boasts a 4.6 YPC after two seasons of co-spelling LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia.  He ripped off two 65-yard runs in that span and posted three 100-yard rushing efforts.

Sounds nice, but there are some big negatives to consider.  After a breakout 2012, he slipped majorly in his second season, with his carry percentage dropping from 28% to 15%.  Brown is strictly an outside runner who frequently looks to bounce the run to the sideline, making him the embodiment of the term “boom or bust.”  Of his 15 career games with at least five carries, he’s finished below 3.0 YPC in eight of them.  He’s fumbled four times over just 211 career touches.  And in Buffalo, he’s been inactive for all six games thus far.  Most of that is due to the fact that Brown doesn’t play special teams, but the fact is that Buffalo clearly had no offensive use for the guy.  If Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett didn’t want to feed Spiller or establish an outside run game with him, why should we assume they’ll set the table for Brown?  A guy they have yet to activate for a game?  A guy with major consistency issues?

I’ll put my reluctant wager on Dixon to score more touches here.  It’s clear Marrone and Hackett favor an interior, ball-control run game and have little use for speed and explosiveness.  Not only is Dixon the MUCH more capable and accomplished inside runner, he’s a guy who has already stolen some carries in this offense.  My money here is on a timeshare with about 55-60% of rushes going to Dixon.  And near the goal line, where fantasy production is most prevalent and predictable, it’s likely going pretty much all Dixon’s way.  Dixon is no great talent, and he won’t win your league, but he looks like a capable, though TD-dependent, flex option going forward.

In sum, I’m not going nuts to scoop up either of these guys unless my RB cupboard is bare.  If I’m in need – say, I just lost F-Jax or Spiller – I’ll bid about 12-15% of my budget on either of them while prioritizing Dixon slightly.  Still, I’m not sure there’s a non-injured RB I’d drop for them.

WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle

Baldwin has been a fine real-life receiver since entering the league undrafted in 2011.  He’s just never been much of a fantasy contributor as a fairly modest talent in a run-heavy, spread-the-wealth offense.  That tide could be turning, however, with Percy Harvin out of town.  He’s got a healthy team lead in targets and has led in yardage three of the last four weeks, including his 7-123-1 line on 11 looks against the Rams.  Now, he’s no big-play extraordinaire and isn’t a huge TD threat – just four red zone targets all year and 26 in 52 career games.  But I see a pretty consistent possession guy who’s now his team’s #1 target; in other words, the luck-of-the-dice factor has been replaced with a nice, solid PPR floor.  That doesn’t mean much in Seattle, unfortunately – I don’t see much more than a WR4 with slight upside – but he could be cheap PPR gold.  Go ahead and plunk down 12-15% of your cap for Baldwin; he’ll help you more than a dice roll like Greg Jennings or Stevie Johnson.

RB Denard Robinson, Jacksonville

I don’t trust Shoelaces – or any Jacksonville RB – down the stretch.  Whoever gets the starting nod has to deal with a poor line and a rookie QB that’s not scaring anyone down the field, so daylight will be hard to come by.  But if you’re hurting at the position and/or in a deep league, then you’re desperately seeking a starting-ish NFL RB, and Robinson presents the Jaguars’ best combination of opportunity and potential for this season.  I still prefer Storm Johnson in dynasty formats, as Robinson looks like a middling RB talent (a 3.3 YPC before Sunday’s outburst).  But Robinson has likely seized the starting job – and the biggest workload – for the time being.  Don’t pay a RB2 price for the guy – something along the lines of 10-12% of your cap seems fair – and don’t weep if you’re outbid.  He’s only a borderline flex option and isn’t worth your tears.

RB Jonas Gray, New England

If you really want to subject yourself to more Belichick Fantasy Cruelty, then go nuts.  Gray ran ahead of Brandon Bolden last Thursday, but a Patriot depth chart is worth about as much as an expired condom, and Bolden could take over the big back role as soon as this week.  Gray is a stout short-yardage type who offers little wiggle or elusiveness, so even with hefty volume – which he won’t get – his upside is strictly capped.  His best-case scenario is the occasional 12-carry game with some goal line opportunity, so don’t go beyond 10% of your budget for Gray.

WR Kenny Stills, New Orleans

A favorite of our own Fantasy Gumshoe (Jeremy Hardt), Stills finally capitalized on his growing snap counts and the (pretty much) lack of Jimmy Graham.  Against the Lions, Stills hauled in all five targets, racking up 103 yards and a score.  While you chew on the option of picking him up, let me remind you again that Stills led all wideouts in yards/target in 2013; he’s among the most talented and productive deep threats in football.  Graham appears fine and Marques Colston is still a thing, so Stills’ weekly expectations as a deep-ball specialist need to remain low.  He remains more of a DFS gamble than much of a standard option, but it’s criminal for a purist douchebag like myself to just leave a talent like this on the wire.  If you’re looking to fill out your WR bench, make a safe 5-7% bid on Stills.  Just don’t do it with an eye on starting him absent a Saint injury or two; he’s a speculative stash at this point.

TE Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati

No, no, no, no.  There are better options on your wire, I promise you.

PANIC ON THE STREETS OF LONDON

Which healthy guys are being dropped? And should they be?

RB Zac Stacy, St. Louis – No way should you drop him, as bleak as things look right now.  Stacy is a much more gifted back than Jeff Fisher gives him credit for, and anything can happen to a raw backfield (see Tre Mason’s above blurb), even after the season’s midway point.  No, he won’t return on your RB2 investment barring an injury, but I’d be shocked if the Stacy Show has ended for good and he’s no longer a 2014 contributor.

RB Khiry Robinson, New Orleans – A personal favorite of mine, Robinson has a real chance to contribute down the stretch and even steal Mark Ingram’s job entirely.  How much do YOU trust Ingram?  Robinson saw just three touches to Ingram’s 12 as the latter returned on Sunday, but there’s quite a talent gap between the two, one I think evens out by season’s end.  Still, go ahead and cut Robinson loose if you need the room; he’s just not startable in fantasy unless he wins that job outright.  He’s a much better dynasty prospect than redraft.

RB Matt Asiata, Minnesota – I told you last week to give Asiata another week to prove he’s the most stable option in this backfield, and he didn’t.  He again lost the touch battle decisively to Jerick McKinnon and looks like a strict backup at this point.  You knew this would happen.  We all did.  Move on.

WEEK 8 QB STREAMERS

Ryan TannehillThe Jaguar defense is making slow strides under Gus Bradley, but it’s still a very targetable unit.  Frankly, most of their recent (relative) success against the pass

(photo: Bleacher Report)

(photo: Bleacher Report),

has probably been the product of facing Charlie Whitehurst and Brian Hoyer over the past two weeks.  And Tannehill has played very effectively lately, posting a 105.8 rating over his last three games, with two TDs in each.  But the real kicker here is that the rushing production showcased in the preseason is really showing up, making Tannehill a low-end QB1 option this week.

Kyle OrtonOrton hasn’t been half-bad under center in Buffalo.  He’s taking what’s been given, hitting on a whopping 68.5% of his throws and finishing all three starts with a rating of 88.1 or higher.  He’s utilizing Sammy Watkins like the true #1 he appears to be.  Yes, he’ll come crashing down to some degree, but this Jet secondary is pretty horrid.  I expect another high-end QB2 performance this Sunday.

Brian HoyerLet’s try this again; C.D. Carter’s fantastic book How to Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner encourages us to trust the process and not let fluky, one-time failures deter us.  Many of us rolled out Hoyer as a sexy streamer last week, only to watch him serve as the one QB the Jaguar defense has stymied all year.  He was atrocious, yes, but came very close to a manageable fantasy day, missing a wide-open TD in the first quarter.  Hoyer now returns home to play with, let’s be honest, his starting job likely on the line. And the matchup is even juicier this week: the Raiders have been worked over by three straight QBs and make for a pretty targetable defense.

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