Martavis Bryant burst onto the NFL and fantasy scenes Sunday as a major contributor to the Steelers’ offensive explosion. He’s joined on the Week Nine waiver wire by gobs of helpful talent – including three other rookies. Without further ado…
Charles Sims, Tampa Bay
Here’s a guy I didn’t love as a prospect. My take in May:
A high, deliberate runner with only average fluidity and elusiveness. Shows a good second gear, but hesitant to build speed. Lacks polish in the passing game despite being used there a lot. Very small hands.
But in life, we have to allow for the possibility of being wrong. And the Bucs truly love Sims, who accumulated 1,496 scrimmage yards and 14 TDs in his only season at West Virginia. There are three reasons to make him a priority add this week: (1) The RB position is in very sorry shape in fantasy football right now; (2) He’s an accomplished pass catcher, with 45 receptions last year; and (3) Tampa has seen very little production from its running game thus far. Doug Martin is on his way out of the team’s plans, and Bobby Rainey is no more than a situational back. Sims resumed practicing this week, and the expectation is that he’ll see reps immediately, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t lead the team in touches (if not snaps) against Cleveland’s shaky run defense. If you’re in need of help from a RB who could threaten 15 touches/week – and most of us are at this point – then you’ll need to bid nice and high to retain his services. Don’t be afraid to cough up more than you can afford – I’ll be burning about 25-28% of my cap for the guy – and consider him more valuable than whomever your RB5 is right now. This is a priority move as your playoffs approach.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati
Hill should already be rostered, but isn’t in 49% of Yahoo! leagues. He’s a very talented big back in a Hue Jackson offense, and the Bengals’ current starter, Giovani Bernard, isn’t much of a ball-carrier (a weak 4.1 YPC thus far, with fewer than 3.5 in five of seven games). Now that Bernard is dealing with his third notable injury in three weeks – this time a hip ailment that cost him the last eight minutes of Sunday’s game – Hill becomes a must-own in every format. While he’s seeing just 7.1 carries/game, it’s encouraging to note that he’s actually been catching more passes than Bernard lately. Clearly, the team wants him on the field, and Bernard’s frequent dings make it likely his role will only increase. Feel free to offer up 18-20% of your cap to get him – and if Bernard looks likely to miss time with this injury, Hill rivals Sims as your pickup of the week. Just maneuver the guy onto your roster.
Jonas Gray, New England
OK, so, the Brandon Bolden thing didn’t work out. Bolden is a core special teamer, which likely factors into Bill Belichick’s decision to erase him entirely from the offense. The benefactor of that decision is Gray, a 5’10 225 second-year hammer from Notre Dame who looks to have seized the interior rushing role. I’ve written plenty on the massive role of big inside runners in the Patriot system, so Gray should be squarely on your radar as a sexy flex option going forward. The reason I don’t want you breaking the bank for him is, of course, the fickleness of Belichick, who rotates his backs as liberally as anyone. Shane Vereen will probably lead the team in snaps every week and has a larger stake in the run game than many realize – even on the goal line. So while Gray is indeed a guy to target with somewhere around 15-18% of your budget, don’t expect a miracle worker. There will be weeks in which Gray touches the ball 18 times, and weeks he touches it eight. He’s a great consolation prize if you lose the chase for Sims and Hill.
Theo Riddick, Detroit
Riddick holds major PPR value when Reggie Bush is out – he’s posted a 13-149-2 receiving line over Weeks Six and Eight with six rushes to boot. And it does appear that Bush’s ankle sprain is at least fairly serious. So you definitely want to try and add Riddick on a speculative basis where possible and affordable, but it’s unclear whether he’ll ever help your team. Bush’s availability has been very cloudy lately, but once he’s healthy, it’s back to the bench for Riddick, who saw just six rushes and no targets through the season’s first five weeks. Riddick is more of a handcuff to stash, so don’t get blinded and burn through more than about 10% of your budget to get him.
Christine Michael, Seattle
The time is nigh, dynasty-wise. Marshawn Lynch has officially worn out his welcome in Seattle. He won’t be back next year, leaving a hole so wide he could drive an SUV through it, hit a woman, and drive off. In Seattle, that hole is not only wide – it’s potent and carries a RB2 floor with top-three RB upside for its new occupant. And that will almost certainly be the uber-talented Michael, about whom the team raved to a ridiculous degree during the offseason. (Robert Turbin has been running at FB, a move that will likely stick. He’s a plodding runner but a very reliable blocker and receiver.) So, dynasty owners, make your move if he’s sitting on your wire. Don’t be afraid to cough up 20% of your budget. From a redraft perspective, there’s not a ton of urgency to add Michael right now; Lynch may be a malcontent, but he’s still quite good and jibes perfectly with the offense, so his role won’t be disappearing soon. But if it’s affordable, make a play for Michael while he’s still available, bidding around 10-12% of your budget. He’s firmly in the handcuff seat, and it’s likely the team wants to get an extended look at what he can offer in 2015. As Rotoworld points out, he even got an entire second-half series to himself Sunday – a good sign for his usage. Whatever your situation, don’t lose sight of what the guy looks capable of.
Brandon LaFell, New England
How bizarre is it that, after all of the Patriots embarrassing failures in evaluating WR talent over the years, the guy they were right about was Brandon LaFell? The ex-Panther burned out in Carolina, never topping 49 catches, 677 yards, or five TDs in four seasons. But he’s found a home in New England, morphing into Tom Brady’s favorite and most productive outside receiver by a mile. Take his last six games and extrapolate them into a full season, and you’ve got an 80-1,229-11 line that has rendered Julian Edelman all but useless. You definitely want to add LaFell anywhere he’s available, as he’s garnered a consistent role in the passing game, racking up 4-55 or better in all but one game over that span. Keep in mind his VERY spotty history, but confidently bid around 15-18% of your budget and feel free to cut ties with an underachiever like Jarvis Landry. LaFell looks like an every-week WR3 with WR2 upside going forward.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh
I was very hard on Bryant as a prospect. He was a raw, raw player at Clemson – just 61 catches in three years, a scrawny build, a host of drops, and a limited route tree – and I didn’t like the second-round grade a lot of folks were giving him. But the fourth was an ideal spot for his major-league upside: a 6’4 build with 4.42 speed and a 39” vertical. And in Pittsburgh, he’s worked his way into the rotation and produced like gangbusters, with a 7-123-3 line on 12 targets over his first two games. He’s healthy and looks to have a solid role in an offense sorely lacking playmaking talent beyond The Omnipotent Antonio Brown. And few QBs openly love tall playmakers more than The Immortal Ben Roethlisberger. Dynasty leaguers should be flipping their wigs to add Bryant and his Plaxico-esque upside, and redrafters need to jump on board as well. Bid away; I’ll be parting with about 15% of my budget to acquire his services and slot him in comfortably as a WR5 with mega upside.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis
Sheesh, here’s another uber-gifted rookie wideout who exploded onto the scene in that PIT-IND barn-burner. Moncrief was an inconsistent yet dynamic collegian and a combine dream, posting the ninth-best explosion measurables since 1999. The Colts landed him in the third round, and while the expectation was for the semi-raw Moncrief to wait his turn at the back of a very crowded WR corps, he’s muscled his way into their offense with a bullet. He’s an explosive deep-ball wet dream, and Andrew Luck is already fond of his rookie toy; Moncrief had drawn extensive playing time every before Reggie Wayne went down. He needs to be added, but take a breath, redrafters. He’s soared past Hakeem Nicks in the pecking order, but certainly not Wayne, who is likely to return this week and relegate Moncrief to the #3 role. Still, there’s value in that; no team runs more plays than the Colts, and nobody throws the ball more than Luck, so Moncrief should see a minimum of 3-5 targets a week. While his usage will torment those who scoop him up, his talent and weekly 6-100-1 upside will torment those who don’t. Bring him on board for about 12-15% of your cap and treat him as a boom-or-bust WR4/5 option, with the potential for so much more, especially if Wayne or T.Y. Hilton end up missing time.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
This has been a frustratingly inconsistent year for TEs, and chances are you’ve been burned at the position to some degree. Maybe the injury big has bitten you and taken down Dennis Pitta or Vernon Davis or Jordan Reed or Eifert himself. Maybe you invested heavily in a gifted youngster like Zach Ertz or Ladarius Green and they’ve failed to take the next step. Maybe you put your eggs into the basket of Jordan Cameron or Charles Clay or Garrett Graham after big 2013s, only to see them slip out of their team’s gameplans. Maybe you foolishly thought Coby Fleener or Levine Toilolo was a good idea. Whatever the case, there’s a decent chance you’re now streaming TEs or trying to put together a desperation package for someone like Dwayne Allen. If this hits close to home, now is the time to pick up Eifert and play him as an upside TE2. He’ll likely rejoin the team in Week Eleven and step into the second or third option in a struggling pass game – and note that top option A.J. Green may be hobbled all year by turf toe. Eifert is likely to flirt with TE1 value down the stretch in this shaky year at the position. If you’re really in need of his services, go ahead and bid 10-12% of your cap this week, though he’ll likely be available at a similar cost next week.
Tim Wright, New England
Sunday’s 7-7-61-1 line showed that Wright does occasionally figure into the Patriot passing game, even when Rob Gronkowski goes bananas. Yes, you should be nervous about the fact that Wright caught just one pass over the previous two games. But he’s a talented slot TE who brings more to the offense than the likes of Danny Amendola (or even Julian Edelman in many ways). Going forward, I expect the pecking order to go Gronk-LaFell-Edelman, with Wright battling with Shane Vereen for the fourth spot in a potent offense. So bid around 8% of your cap if you’re looking to compile TE depth.
PANIC ON THE STREETS OF LONDON
Which healthy guys are being dropped? And should they be?
RB Tre Mason, St. Louis – No way am I cutting him. Yes, the Rams are rotating their backs pretty evenly in a full-on committee approach. But he’s still just as likely to rack up 15 carries as he is five, and he’s got the explosion to post a RB2 line or two down the road. Hold tight and wait for clarity.
RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay – I wouldn’t give up ALL hope for Martin, as it appears the Bucs are actively trying to send him elsewhere and he could conceivably step into a starting role (Patriots?). But he just doesn’t look like a special runner, and his sheer ineptitude in the passing game greatly hurts his value, both in reality and in fantasy. The most likely scenario is that he remains a Buc and fades into the middle of their depth chart, so I doubt he’ll see fantasy value again. Personally, I’d cut him loose for anyone in this article.
TE Charles Clay, Miami – Yes, cut the guy. Despite an impressive athletic profile and resume, he’s just not part of the team’s plans despite the Week Seven mini-blowup. He’s seeing just 3.1 targets/game and has topped 32 yards just twice all year. And he’s not been much of a factor near the goal line.
WEEK NINE QUARTERBACK STREAMERS
Ryan Tannehill disappointed a bit as a streamer against the Jaguars’ poor defense, throwing for just 196 yards with a TD and a pick. But he rescued his fantasy day by adding 48 yards on five rushes. In fact, he’s run for 45 yards/game over his last four, and I like his overall rebound chances against a Charger defense that’s predictably falling off a cliff. They’ve been absolutely gashed in two of their last three games, and I foresee a bit of a shootout in Miami this week. Prior to the Jacksonville game, Tannehill had posted 23, 21, and 29 fantasy points over his previous three, and his 17 last Sunday showed that his legs give him an impressive floor. Roll him out as a low-end QB1 this week.
Teddy Bridgewater has been shaky at best since his crowd-pleasing debut, and his mediocre showing against the Bucs’ atrocious “defense” doesn’t inspire too much confidence. But Washington can’t cover anyone, and Bridgewater will be returning home this week, so I like his chances to top last week’s 241-yard, one-TD performance. He’s involving athletic freak Cordarrelle Patterson and has the ultra-promising Jerick McKinnon to keep defenses much more honest than Matt Asiata would. Bridgewater brings low-end QB1 upside to the table this week.
Alex Smith has quietly put together another low-impact season with a solid fantasy floor. The checkdown artist has thrown just one INT since Week One, completing 69.3% of his throws and compiling a 102.6 rating. And he’s posted two three-score games against good pass defenses. He makes for a nice spot start hosting the Jets’ pathetic pass defense. The concern will be game flow, as the Jets look like crap right now and the Chiefs are likely to run away with this one early. But Smith should get plenty of opportunities for production with all of the turnovers and short fields he’s likely to see.