The Patriots have a 220-pound hole in their offense, and many of you have a similar cavity in your flex spot. But Brandon Bolden can fill them both.
PRIORITY WAIVER WIRE ADDS
RB Brandon Bolden, New England
We’ve learned in recent years that the Patriot offense functions through its power running game, and to one of the heaviest extents in football. Dating back to 2010, the Pats have run the ball a healthy 42.9% of the time, at a clip of 29.5 rushes/game. When you remove QBs and passing-down specialists Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, and Kevin Faulk, you see that the power-oriented inside runners have accounted for 68.2% of those carries. In other words, Bill Belichick’s lead interior back always needs to be owned and deserves at least flex consideration every week. With the team’s 2014 rushing usage, the projection model above suggests a neighborhood of 20 weekly rushes for the interior guy(s).
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Stevan Ridley is down for the count with tears to his ACL and MCL. The next man up is Bolden, an underrated runner (4.5 career YPC) who’s stolen his share of carries from Ridley in the past. While 20 rushes/game isn’t realistic – the team is likely to incorporate youngsters Jonas Gray and James White to some degree – Bolden remains their best option between the tackles. So I’m expecting a floor of 12-15 touches on a weekly basis. And Bolden comes with big weekly upside: Patriot power backs have topped 15 rushes in ten of their last 24 games (including playoffs).
The bottom line is that Bolden has the look of a fairly sizeable waiver wire prize. I’m targeting him aggressively, bidding around 20-23% of my FAAB cap for his services and cutting loose the likes of Chris Johnson to clear space – exactly what you’d expect to pay for a quality weekly flex just sitting on the wire. There’s risk involved, but the role is very juicy, and I think Belichick appreciates Bolden’s unheralded (if limited) past production in it. I’m going to ask you to just trust me here.
WR Andre Holmes, Oakland
I already told you to pick the guy up. But you didn’t. You instead went chasing some flasher without Holmes’ impressive pedigree of size, athleticism, and passage of the Eric Decker Test. (You want to take a few minutes to click that link and read. The Eric Decker Test is insanely cool and identifies top-notch fantasy talent like few other indicators. Of the 21 college WRs since 2005 to pass the test AND play multiple NFL seasons, seven have posted top-eight fantasy seasons, and that doesn’t include almost-there guys like DeAndre Hopkins, Torrey Smith, Justin Blackmon, Brandin Cooks, and Davante Adams. But I digress HARD.) Holmes has the look of an under-appreciated, ascending talent who would be Hopkins himself right now had Derek Carr been throwing to him all along. He went off again Sunday, turning eight targets into a 4-121-2 line against San Diego. He’s averaging 9.3 yards/target – same as Jordy Nelson – and has posted PPR fantasy scores of 18 and 26 over the Raiders’ last two games. This is your last chance to score Holmes for a 15-18% share of your budget, so get in on this and ditch the Greg Jennings/Riley Cooper types you’ve been clinging to.
TE Jace Amaro, N.Y. Jets
This is a guy I liked a lot leading up to the NFL Draft, and his 10-68-1 line (on a team-high 12 targets) served as a moderately exciting breakout. It seems Geno Smith is only productive when throwing to big receivers – Eric Decker and David Nelson come to mind – so Amaro could have a nice near-future with Smith under center. Still, Amaro isn’t there yet, or even close, from a real-life or fantasy perspective. He’s been drop-prone since donning his first Jets practice uniform and saw just 17 targets through his first five games. Those in need of TE help are encouraged to bid up to 12-15% for Amaro’s services, but no more. I still strongly prefer fellow rookie Austin Sefarian-Jenkins as an upside TE2.
This is just a reminder that both these guys need to be rostered as handcuffs to high-injury backs in outstanding RB situations. DeMarco Murray has been the league’s best back through six weeks, but he missed 11 of his first 48 NFL games to various injuries. Randle has decisively grabbed the backup job – Lance Dunbar has one carry outside of his ineffective Week 2 “explosion” – and Scott Linehan’s devotion to the run game seems real. Randle becomes a weekly RB2 in the event of a Murray injury. Blue has proven an effective if unspectacular runner when spelling Arian Foster. Only four teams have run the ball more often than Houston, and Foster’s seemingly endless hamstring woes – some of which pop up unexpectedly on Fridays and Sundays – make Blue a must-own. He can pay RB2/flex dividends any time Foster has to sit. Don’t be afraid to devote 8-10% of your budget to either, though a bid probably isn’t necessary while both are planted on the bench. Just scoop one up after the waiver period in place of some turd handcuff like C.J. Anderson.
RB Tre Mason, St. Louis
This guy, on the other hand, was not a draft favorite of mine. Mason “blew up” for 40 yards on five rushes Monday night, adding a 12-yard catch in the process, but I’m not buying just yet. He’s an extremely raw rookie with stunningly little experience in a pro-style run game, and his low passing-game usage at Auburn suggests he’s not ready to contribute beyond change-of-pace duties. There’s a reason Mason was a healthy scratch for the Rams’ first four games. Zac Stacy is a better back than he’s given credit for, and this has become a crowded backfield difficult to get a weekly handle on. If you’re the speculative type and/or seeking RB depth in a click-and-hope manner, take the plunge at 8-10% of your cap, but don’t expect miracles. It’s hard for me to even expect him to touch the ball more than a handful of times a week.
WR Brandon LaFell, New England
I’m not going to be blinded by LaFell’s 6-119-1 and 4-97-2 lines over the last three weeks, but I’ll take a stab at him for 8% of my budget. LaFell is no great shakes as a receiver – this is a guy catching passes from Captain Checkdown himself and still only hauling in 44% of them – but he’s been scoring TDs lately. Playing in most two-wide sets, LaFell will indeed have some usable WR3/4 lines going forward, though he settles in best as your WR5. You won’t ever want to start the guy, and that’s so very key in identifying weekly pickups: will he ever crack your lineup? Don’t break an ankle here, and don’t cash in a promising end-of-bencher like Jarius Wright.
WR Jarvis Landry, Miami
I’m not a huge fan of Landry’s overall talent level, with most of that disapproval stemming from his historically poor draft season showings. I see him as a sub-pedestrian athlete at WR with no real downfield or make-em-miss chops, so I think his upside is capped firmly in the Jason Avant stratosphere. But PPR owners don’t care about downfield usage when they’re identifying slot receivers with weekly 6-75 potential to fill their WR4 roles. And while Landry is no Willie Gault, he was an extraordinarily dependable underneath target at LSU and has already earned Ryan Tannehill’s eye (25 targets over the last four games). Tannehill utilizes his slotmen quite liberally; even the mediocre Brandon Gibson has seen quality target numbers as a Dolphin. And with Gibson hampered by a hammy issue that kept him out of Week 6, Landry posted an impressive 6-75-1 line on eight targets Sunday. Don’t go nuts here; in fantasy terms, Landry is JAG and doesn’t deserve more than an 8% FAAB bid at most. But if Gibson remains sidelined, or Landry overtakes him completely, he’s as a usable WR4 option in PPR leagues.
TE Josh Hill, New Orleans
This is a pure dice-roll, but oh the very upside. With Jimmy Graham on the mend for the next 2-3 weeks, the Saint offense has a gaping, dunking, ex-basketballing hole smack dead in the center of Drew Brees’ vision cone. (Remember that? I actually liked it.) Note that, when Graham skipped OTAs this offseason, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael stressed that the team was still running a TE-heavy offense without him. And Hill has shown well in very limited opportunity – his 263 career snaps have netted a 13-156-3 line on 18 targets. He’ll be battling 33-year-old Ben Watson for snaps, but there’s a ton of potential here. And owners of Zach Ertz, Larry Donnell, Vernon Davis, Martellus Bennett, and Delanie Walker will have bye-week concerns over the next two weeks. If you’re desperate or ballsy, roll the dice on Hill for 5-8% of your budget. I prefer him to the low-upside likes of Coby Fleener and Scott Chandler, who lack production for much better reasons than Hill.
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WR Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland
I like Hawkins’ talent, but I understand the urge to move on. He’s not a TD threat (just three red zone targets all season), and you can’t trust a guy allergic to the end zone as anything but a PPR WR3/4 at best. And the Browns are really spreading the ball around. Still, the electrifying talent is there, and this is a guy who opened the year scoring 17, 13, and 16 points over the first three weeks. Hold tight as your WR5 unless you NEED the space. Hawkins deserves one more week to prove he’s still in the Browns’ offensive plans.
RB Matt Asiata, Minnesota
Don’t cut bait just yet. Sure, he’s a pretty talent-starved back. And sure, Jerick McKinnon out-snapped and (drastically) out-touched him on Sunday. But usable flex-level RBs are an endangered species right now, especially with bye weeks creeping on, so unloading a guy who was carrying most of his NFL team’s mail just a week ago is short-sighted. McKinnon is ultra-talented, but very raw and struggles to do the little things a coaching staff needs its backs to do. (This is not Madden 15; backs need to block, and catch, and identify their spots quickly.) Give Asiata one more week to prove he’s still in a solid timeshare here. And I promise, if McKinnon’s strangehold continues next weekend, you’ll have the green light to send Asiata packing.
RB Chris Johnson, N.Y. Jets
It’s a beautiful morning here in Splitsville, USA. Population: YOU, CJ0.5K. You’ve earned this mind-numbingly hackneyed joke.
WEEK 7 QB STREAMERS
Brian Hoyer, Cleveland – Talk about a gunslinger. Hoyer is launching it downfield frequently and with fantastic accuracy, leading the NFL by a mile in deep-ball accuracy according to Pro Football Focus. He’s posted borderline QB1 numbers or better in two of his last three games. And he’s got a beautiful Week 7 matchup with a Jaguar D incapable of hurrying passers or defending receivers.
Derek Carr, Oakland – Carr has been outstanding as a rookie quarterbacking a dreadful team, with a solid 81.8 rating and two QB1-type lines in his four full games. Fresh off lighting up arguably the league’s best coverage defense thus far, Carr and the Raiders host a very poor Cardinal pass defense this Sunday. Armed with an emerging WR talent in Andre Holmes, I’m looking for another QB1 performance.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston – He’s been better than you think at managing games for the run-heavy Texans, posting a rating of 109.3 or better in three of his six games. FitzMagic hasn’t been producing much fantasy-wise, but his Monday matchup with the rapidly-imploding Steelers could produce some gold. The Steelers look incapable of defending anyone right now.
Thoughts? Let me have it in the comments, or yell at me on Twitter! Follow @JustinHoweFF