In a season of maddening inconsistency at the tight end position, don’t lose sight of Coby Fleener in the wake of Dwayne Allen’s injury. Fleener has produced well in back-to-back weeks and looks to be worth your time as a possible TE1 down the stretch.
Let’s examine all of your intriguing waiver options entering Week 12:
NOTE: For the remainder of the season, as a companion to this column, be sure to brush up on my roster construction piece here. It details what you should be targeting as you build depth entering the stretch run (and hopefully your playoffs): high-upside lottery tickets, as opposed to low-impact guys dependent on unproductive volume. You should be filling out your bench with guys with at least a reasonable chance to produce quality numbers down the stretch, not chasing mediocre starters based on the fact that they’re starting for their NFL teams. (In other words, you want Rueben Randle or Justin Hunter as your WR5, not Greg Jennings or Hakeem Nicks.)
Dan Herron, Colts
Another sad, sad turn of events for Ahmad Bradshaw’s feet. A nasty ankle fracture has ended Bradshaw’s season (and put his 2015 training camp in doubt) and left the Colts’ running game in the hands of, sigh, Trent Richardson. Despite the Colts’ puzzling love for T-Rich, any organization with at least two working eyeballs in the building can see that Richardson is woefully stretched as a foundation piece. Through 23 games as a Colt, he’s posted a pitiful 3.1 YPC, finding his way into a complementary role behind Bradshaw. Richardson hasn’t been quite as bad as the raw numbers dictate – he did rank #7 in PFF’s elusive rating last season and checks in at #8 this year – but the Colts have to be disappointed with his “performance” after the former #3 pick cost the team a first-rounder to acquire.
So who picks up Bradshaw’s slack in showing up Richardson? Former Buckeye Herron, that’s who. Herron has seen just 80 NFL snaps over his 11 career appearances and hasn’t really impressed, but he’s the next man up. And on this ultra-explosive offense that fires off more plays per game than anyone, there’s likely to be value for whomever sees the field. While Richardson is likely to regain the majority of backfield touches, watch Herron closely. The sixth-rounder from 2012 had a great preseason and likely steps into at least a 33% share of those touches (Bradshaw saw 39% from Weeks 2-4, when Richardson was the clear lead back) and could impress. It’s worth a 15-17% FAAB bid to see how things shake out, if Herron can somehow outproduce Richardson and earn an expanded role. It’s not the safest bet, but the upside at least seems semi-sexy.
Roy Helu, Washington
Alfred Morris, as you know, doesn’t offer Washington much by way of the passing game. And that’s opened the door for Helu to play the bargain-basement Giovani Bernard role in Jay Gruden’s offense. Very quietly, Helu is the RB27 in PPR leagues thus far. He’s scored more FP/game than the likes of Steven Jackson, Jonathan Stewart, and a handful of other ultra-veteran fantasy turds you’re still clinging to for their precious volume. Even more, in fact, than some of the young darlings you’ve assumed to be ON! THE! VERGE! every week – Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Terrance West, and Isaiah Crowell. Simply put: if your league gives a full point/reception, Helu is a real RB3/4, and his potential in the event of a Morris injury makes him a hell of a lottery ticket. And since a passing-down back is so much less dependent upon matchup and game flow than an early-down hammer back, there are some matchups – like this week’s tilt with run-swallowing 49ers – in which Helu actually carries a higher PPR ceiling than Morris. Helu is the type of lottery ticket to fill out your bench with, and if you need to bid anything, about 8-10% should be plenty. There’s good value here.
Juwan Thompson, Broncos
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Even with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman sidelined, there’s no need to roster Thompson. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s little to no fantasy value for the Broncos’ #2 RB. The weekly holder of the position has posted an uninspiring 4.7 FP/game; take out Thompson’s two-touchdown showing against the Chargers, and the figure stands at 3.6. Don’t waste your waiver rank, your FAAB dollars, or your time.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Allen Robinson’s injury clarifies the Jacksonville passing game: Shorts (as long as his hamstrings cooperate) and Allen Hurns are locked in as the starters in the Z and X roles, respectively, with disappointing rookie Marqise Lee playing in all three-wide sets. Shorts by far the most intriguing of the three; lost amidst his extensive injury history is the fact that he’s seen 8.5 targets/game over the last three seasons, with numbers that would extrapolate to 72-1,003-5 over a 16-game season. Now the closest thing to a focal point of this Jaguar passing game – one that often finds itself throwing a boatload of garbage-time passes – Shorts looks like a weekly WR3/4 as long as his health holds up. He looks to be worth a 17-20% FAAB bid this week as owners fill out their late-season benches with potential contributors.
Kenny Britt, Rams
Britt had a semi-blowup this week, turning seven targets into a 4-128-1 line in Shaun Hill’s return to the lineup. I’m not here to tell you to avoid Britt, but temper your expectations. After his dynamite first half, Britt saw just two targets in the second – both incompletions – as a reminder that the Ram offense is a spread-the-wealth one. I can’t imagine Britt distancing himself target-wise from the likes of Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and the dumpoff game. He’s more of a name than anything at this point as his promising WR1 talent has slipped noticeably after a slew of early-career injuries. And besides, this passing game isn’t nearly consistent nor dynamic enough to produce a startable receiver now that Brian Quick is down. Britt is more of a lottery ticket that you stash as your WR5, start in a pinch, and pray for the big play. I wouldn’t enter the bidding war that will probably come this week, but 5-8% seems fair.
Andre Caldwell, Broncos
Next man up. Emmanuel Sanders sustained a concussion Sunday – you can’t convince me otherwise – and I don’t expect him to suit up next week. Julius Thomas looks iffy to go as well. The obvious assumption is that Wes Welker is set to reclaim his role in the Denver pecking order, but it sure didn’t look Sunday like that was the case; Welker saw just six targets all day, turning in a 4-28 line; he may be done for good. Caldwell split time pretty evenly in the slot, seeing four targets for a more efficient 3-31 line. Manning clearly appreciates Caldwell’s ability as a reserve slotman, and he could be in line for another even split this week, divvying up Sanders’ ample slot production with Welker. Caldwell is no league-winner, but he could make for an intriguing short-term PPR WR4 in a pinch. Don’t spend any waiver resources, but deep-league owners can take a FA flyer.
Coby Fleener, Colts
This is where fantasy and actual football part ways. Fleener is not a very good tight end. He’s a poor blocker and an unreliable, unproductive receiver. He’s been thoroughly trumped by 2012 draftmate Dwayne Allen in every metric measure of efficiency. But with Allen looking iffy for Week 12 with a moderate ankle sprain, Fleener’s value has experienced a monumental boost, making him a priority add for TE-needy owners able to cough up 12-15% of their cap space. A week after turning 11 targets into a 4-77-1 line, Fleener caught all seven targets Sunday night for 144 yards. Andrew Luck just adored his TEs (namely Fleener himself) in the red zone at Stanford, and it’s carried over into the NFL, where Fleener and Allen have accounted for 28.4% of Luck’s career TD passes. If Allen can’t go against the Jaguars – who have allowed six touchdowns to TEs thus far – Fleener looks like a TE1 play. Yes, a TE1 play, here in this toxic spill of a season in Tightendland.
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Again, no. No FAAB dollars for you, Jermaine.
J.J. Watt, Texans
This just to say
that j.j. watt checked in as week 11’s #8 tight end
in ppr leagues
he outscored jimmy graham
and martellus bennett
and travis kelce
even though kelce played the seahawks
who can’t defend tight ends
please forgive j.j.
he is amazing
and so strong
– William Carlos Williams (kinda)
DUMPSVILLE, POPULATION: YOU
QB Robert Griffin III, Washington – Griffin just doesn’t seem to have it. It seems clearer every week that he’s not nearly the passer he looked like as a rookie. His running ability gives his floor a healthy boost of 2-4 FP/week, so you could do worse if you insist upon rostering a QB2, but even that aspect has fallen tremendously in value since his rookie year. And there’s always the threat of a benching or another disastrous performance like the one we just witnessed against the god-awful Tampa defense. Most of you should have already cut your QB2, but if you’re clinging to Griffin in hopes of a resurgence, it’s time to cut bait.
RB Bobby Rainey, Buccaneers – Rainey isn’t valueless, but he’s close. Rookie Charles Sims outsnapped and outtouched him Sunday and it looks very unlikely Rainey will overtake him as the 2-8 Bucs look to establish the youngster they love so. Unless you’re in a 20-team league, Rainey is likely done providing anything to your roster, so cut him loose and go looking for a lottery ticket.
RB Branden Oliver, Chargers – Ryan Mathews returned to the Bolts’ feature back role on Sunday, and while he seems to have escaped a knee aggravation, he’s not the end-all be-all in the Charger backfield. Mathews is a constant injury risk, and even when healthy, he’s shaky in the pass game, making the team’s third-down back a sometimes-valuable fantasy commodity. Oliver looks like a hold for the time being; he’s a reception-dependent RB4 type at the moment, but would re-enter the RB2 discussion should Mathews go down again.
WEEK 12 QUARTERBACK STREAMERS
Eli Manning, Giants – Eli was likely cut after his early-season hot streak came to a close, which could be a huge boon for streamers this week. I won’t tell you ignore the five INTs he coughed up to the 49ers, as Eli’s INT tendencies prove it wasn’t entirely a fluke, but the Dallas defense features far less talent and far fewer playmakers. Eli has averaged 25.2 standard FP/game over his last three Cowboy matchups, and Big D has allowed 271.5 pass yards over their last four games as the defensive has predictably begun to tumble.
Kyle Orton, Bills – Orton has followed his impressive start as the Bills’ signal-caller with two underwhelming dink-and-dunk-fests that have called his starting job into question. Still, it’s hard not to have fantasy success against a Jet defense that’s allowed a league-most 25 TDs through the air and recorded just three interceptions. Orton’s short-lived days of threatening 300 yards are likely over, but I’m setting a two-TD minimum this week, making him a viable low-end QB1 candidate.