GREEN LIGHT: TAKE THE LEAP LIKE BAKULA
WR Allen Hurns, Jacksonville
Yes, you should pick him up. Don’t overthink things. Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s good that you’re being judicious and wondering if the preseason/Opening Day breakout stud is worth your time. Most undrafted players aren’t, and I applaud your restraint. But Hurns has carried over his preseason dynamism, catching a pair of first-quarter scores to go with his 9-4-110 line. He very much has Chad Henne’s eye, and looks talented enough to stay in the WR3 discussion for as long as the brittle Cecil Shorts is sidelined. (I invite you to examine Eric Harrison’s excellent breakdown here on FakePigskin.)
The opportunity is there for extended playing time, even when Shorts returns to the lineup, as Marqise Lee is also a rookie who is guaranteed nothing. (And Hurns has definitively outproduced his first-year counterpart to this point.) Don’t get carried away and chase Sunday’s points, as Hurns is unlikely to truly match that output, but I’m targeting him on a WR3 level in the short-term and expecting a WR4/5 type who would stick on my roster all year.
RB Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland
Ben Tate’s latest knee injury – a scary one of the non-contact variety – adds to a mile-long injury history, and likely opens the door for Crowell and Terrance West to garner fantasy production in both the short and long terms. West, the third-rounder in the 2014 NFL Draft, is the more likely to see a feature-back workload, but the polarizing, undrafted Crowell poached two red zone touchdowns following Tate’s exit; clearly, the Browns see a place in the backfield for him.
Some background for the uninitiated: Crowell was 2011’s #1 high school RB and took home SEC Freshman of the Year honors at Georgia. Some concerning weapons charges (which were later dismissed) prompted his ouster from the Bulldogs, and Crowell landed at tiny Alabama State, where he flashed great potential en route to two dynamic seasons. Crowell’s college film is electrifying, prompting numerous draftniks to proclaim him the most gifted runner in the 2014 class. He’s got a great build for a feature back at 5’11” 224, and he’s frankly one of the smoothest cutters I’ve seen in some time. I liken him to Christine Michael in many ways, and with both runners, there’s considerable risk in expecting much anytime soon. He showed durability and passing game concerns at Alabama State, and film be damned, his pre-draft measurables were pretty ordinary.
Most importantly, West does indeed look like the mail-carrier in Tate’s absence, though he has not looked particularly impressive this preseason. Target Crowell wisely – as a speculative add for those hurting for RB options and/or upside. In other words, take the leap if you can spare a spot, but don’t necessarily go dropping your Jarrett Boykins and Jeremy Hills (for shame!) to add him. Let this serve as a great exercise in asset evaluation and fantasy prioritizing.
WR Brian Quick, St. Louis
Quick has long been talked up as a size/speed freak – and T.H.E.Y. are not off-base. The former 33rd pick goes 6’4” 209 and ran a 4.50 with good explosion numbers at his 2012 combine; he has the physical profile of a dynamic up-and-down-the-field receiver. And while he’s yet to make a noticeable impact on NFL stat sheets, it’s important to note that he’s spent his young career saddled with David Carr 2.0 and a host of awful backups under center. Sam Bradford would rather drink hydrochloric acid than utilize an athletic receiver down the field, and as a result, wideouts have posted worthless fantasy numbers during his tenure.
I know your next question: “But Justin, the Rams are dealing with an absolute dumpster fire at QB; how can you keep a straight face and tell me to add one of their receivers?!” Indeed, the Rams hold a severe lack of quality at quarterback, but they have an intriguing deep-ball passer in their arsenal: Case Keenum. Keenum was quite shaky in his Houston starts last year, but according to Pro Football Focus, he finished among the league’s leaders in hitting on the deep ball. And the deep ball may just be Quick’s (and Kenny Britt’s) thing. Don’t go overboard here: there are several mouths to feed in this offense, Quick had never caught more than three passes in a game prior to Sunday’s explosion, and the Rams’ quarterback situation is situationally intriguing but nothing close to stable. But when a massive, athletic, and high-drafted wideout opens the season as a target monster, you’re to pay at least a little attention.
RB Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay
Doug Martin left Sunday’s game with another knee injury. The severity is unknown, but Martin was unable to return, which is never a good sign. An extended absence would likely position the dynamic Rainey as the primary mail-carrier in Tampa Bay. And if we’re being frank, Martin should probably be peeking over his shoulder anyway; he’s just not much of a feature back at his healthiest. Martin has seen his rushing output dovetail since his 2012 debut – a rough 3.6 YPC over his last 13 games – and he’s been one of the least reliable receiving backs in the league since joining the pro ranks. New offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford notoriously told the Tampa Bay Times this offseason about his belief in rotational backs, so Rainey was likely to play a noticeable role in the backfield even before Martin’s latest knee ding. Rainey doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a RB2 – he’s already 26 and on his third roster – but he’s arguably the top RB add this week due to his opportunity and impressive athleticism.
YELLOW LIGHT: ACHTUNG, BABY
WR Devin Hester, Atlanta
Long derided for his extended foray into Chicago’s offense, the all-world return man thumbed his nose at all of us on Opening Day. Hester served as a true slot/intermediate threat for Matt Ryan, hauling in six passes for 99 yards, his highest yardage total since 2009, and Lauren Moranor of Sports World Report reported Monday that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has stated that he will have a role in the offense going forward. But Hester’s line benefited mightily from Matt Ryan’s career day, and has the look of a matchup-dependent weapon as the fourth or fifth option in a passing game that greatly features its top two. Bring him in speculatively if you’re in a deep league, but don’t expect a consistent flex play until he posts another line similar to yesterday’s. I don’t think it will happen more often than once a month, so even you scoop him up, I doubt you’ll ever start him. It’s far too risky to gamble on the low-ceiling novelty types that Hester will probably serve as in Atlanta; he has a WR4/5 ceiling going forward.
RB Justin Forsett, Baltimore
Ray Rice is done in Baltimore (and likely pro football as a whole), leaving a fantasy opening in the Baltimore backfield. On Sunday, direct backup Bernard Pierce was benched for fumbling, allowing Forsett to step in and post a very impressive Ravens debut, with 70 yards on just 11 carries and five receptions. Now, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley claims Forsett is in the driver seat to start going forward. Forsett is a fairly athletic scatback with good passing game skills, which should keep him somewhat relevant throughout the near future. But let’s pump the brakes. It’s hard to put much faith into a nearly 29-year-old journeyman who has spent very little time above the #3 spot on any of his previous four teams’ depth charts. Feel free to add Forsett if the cost is low, but don’t expect consistently usable flex production beyond the next week or two, if that. Pierce is the more gifted back, and Sunday’s fumble was the first of his career. You can probably project him to take the majority of touches going forward.
RED LIGHT: DO NOT SEEK THE TREASURE
WR Ricardo Lockette, Seattle
Don’t be the guy who burns his waiver priority AND cuts loose a usable piece of depth based on a bottom-of-the-depth-chart guy like Lockett squirts loose for a high-profile touchdown. Lockette now sits on nine catches in 19 career games, and will probably battle with superior deep talent Jermaine Kearse and second-round rookie Paul Richardson for deep-ball targets. He’s not a pickup option.
TE Brandon Myers, Tampa Bay
Give credit to Myers, a dependable blocker and soft-handed underneath target who has caught 71% of the balls thrown his way since 2012. But there’s a reason his last two teams, Oakland and the Giants, have moved on after one year of starting service from Myers: he’s perpetually replaceable. The plodder has averaged an anemic 10.4 YPR over that span, and ultra-gifted rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks poised for a bigger role. He’s massive, extremely athletic, and has been praised by the team throughout the offseason program. Sefarian-Jenkins caught a 26-yard pass early in Sunday’s win, and the best is yet to come, probably at the expense of Myers. Don’t chase the dumpoff-heavy line Myers posted yesterday; his 8-6-41 line will likely be as good as it gets this year.
PANIC ON THE STREETS OF LONDON
WR Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay
Boykin spent most of Thursday’s tilt with the Seahawks at the Sherman Hotel, so we can certainly excuse his catchless debut. Boykin has been talked up by the team all offseason and is still miles ahead of rookie Davante Adams for the #3 job, so don’t knee-jerkedly dump the guy.