We may finally have the end of the Trent Richardson Era in sight. Sort of, anyway. Youngster Dan Herron stepped in for the IR’d Ahmad Bradshaw and immediately laid claim to more than half the RB workload for the Andrew Luck Machine. Can he be the rock-steady RB2 we’ve been waiting for to emerge from the Colts’ potent offense?
Eli Manning, Giants
Somebody scooped him up during his early-season explosion, then dropped him when he leveled off and became interchangeable with the Kyle Ortons and Brian Hoyers on the waiver wire. Their loss, your gain: if you’re streaming QBs or stuck with a relative dud like Matthew Stafford or Philip Rivers, have the balls to put in an 8-10% waiver bid on Eli. He’s looking at a VERY favorable schedule down the stretch, including dates with the Jaguars, Titans, and Redskins over the next three weeks. And the production has been there; he’s averaged 315 yards over the last four and posted big yardage numbers against some fine pass defenses over that span. Eli could always Eli, but unless you’ve got a rock-solid (read: top-four) stud already slotted in, this makes for an intriguing outside-the-box play.
Dan Herron, Colts
On Sunday, the Colts surprisingly spurned Trent Richardson and turned over half their running game to new blood. It looks like we have a 50/50 split here; T-Rich received one more carry and all three of the duo’s short-yardage rushes, but Herron started the game and dominated passing downs (a 5-1 target edge). As with most NFL backs, Herron holds a noticeable talent edge over Richardson and simply offers more chain-moving ability, so he’s the one I’d bet on for flex value. And the stakes are fairly high here; this is a score-a-minute offense that’s running more plays per game than anyone else, so their RB1 matters in fantasy. Herron makes for a fine add for those cobbling together a RB corps, as I foresee a handful of 18-touch games down the stretch being his floor, and a rock-solid RB2 being his ceiling. Don’t be afraid to bid 15-18% of the FAAB you’ve got left; Herron looks like the type of lottery ticket you should be chasing, at a position where you probably need depth.
(Sidebar: Do we know Richardson’s real age? Could this be a Miguel Tejada-type situation where we find down the road that he’s actually 49? He’s posting the numbers of an end-of-the-line Jamal Lewis, is why I’m asking.)
LeGarrette Blount, Patriots
LeMalcontent got his wish. Days after whining over his role – he apparently expected the Steelers to sit their superstar more in favor of a plodding idiot – and “earning” his release from Pittsburgh, Blount landed back in New England on a minimum deal. You probably know the events of the week’s soap opera in the Patriot backfield: Week 12 darling Jonas Gray was scratched after showing up late to a team meeting, and Blount was given the reins. He proceeded to chew up a stout Lion defense for a 12-78 line, scoring on three- and one-yard plunges. Looks sexy, but slow your roll. Blount is a one-dimensional banger who doesn’t see the field in the passing game and isn’t the dominant short-yardage back you think he is. (The Buccaneers grew tired of his inability to convert on short-yardage runs, and the Steelers showed no interest in handing him many goal line carries.) Going forward, Shane Vereen is the only sure thing in this backfield in terms of playing time, as the Patriots mix up their offensive gameplans and don’t go power-ball as often anymore. Blount has limited appeal unless he knocks Gray off the depth chart entirely, and even then, he’s a flex play just as likely to post a 4-15 as a 12-78. Those desperate for RB help should bid around 15-18% on a Blount lottery ticket, but don’t expect Sunday to be the norm. The Patriots have dates with the tough run defenses of the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills in Weeks 15-17.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
I’ve talked up Landry as a low-upside WR4/5 pickup for weeks, but he may be blossoming into more than that: a sticky-handed red zone specialist who’s catching up to Mike Wallace in the overall pecking order. Since the Dolphins’ Week 5 bye, Landry has seen 48 targets to Wallace’s 52, with nine in the red zone to Wallace’s 11. (And he’s outscored Wallace over that span, 5-4.) Landry was an ultra-reliable possession target at LSU whose horrendous offseason workouts bumped him miles below teammate Odell Beckham, Jr. in the draft game. Now showing serious chops as an underneath target – the only kind Ryan Tannehill can utilize – Landry looks like a keeper. His ceiling is fairly low, having topped 53 yards only once all season, but PPR leaguers can count on him as a dependable WR4. If he’s still available and your league gives a full PPR, reel him for around 12-15% of your cap. He won’t win you any leagues, but he makes for a nice PPR contingency plan.
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Chris Hogan, Bills
Anyone who watched the Dolphins’ Hard Knocks series knows who Hogan is: a quick, slippery intermediate target whose ability to get open at will earned him the nickname 7-11 from ex-teammate Reggie Bush (because he’s always open). But RotoViz’s Patrick Kerrane has a bombshell for you. Ready for it? No, you’re not, but here it is anyway:
Chris Hogan is more athletic than Sammy Watkins.
If you’re into NFL Combine testing, anyway. Hogan, the undrafted stud on his fourth team in four years, easily topped teammate Watkins in RotoViz’s Explosion and Agility scores. He’s also bigger and much stronger and, according to my eyeballs, a more polished and dependable receiver. And he’s been breaking out over the last six weeks, posting a line of 5-57 or better in four of them and drawing a cool six red zone targets. Hogan’s efficiency has stood out: as Jason Schandl of NumberFire pointed out last week, he’s been a top-20 WR in terms of Net Expected Points (among guys with 30+ targets). His impressive 7-74 line against the Dolphins’ elite secondary was the last straw; I scooped him up in every league I saw him available and played him as a cheap, high-upside flex on DraftKings last week. (That busted big-time, but I remain quite hopeful.)
Hogan is mired in Buffalo, of course, catching balls from the eternally fading Kyle Orton, so we need to keep our expectations in check here: he’s a WR4 with WR3 upside. But dynasty leaguers need to take notice (I just dealt Markus Wheaton for him), and redrafters looking for WR3 lottery tickers need to get on board. I’m bidding about 12-15% of my cap on him, but would go even higher in a deeper league. Maybe I’m just talking up a personal favorite here, but Hogan just looks good and has the real-life skills to stick around.
Charles Johnson, Vikings
Johnson has long been a favorite of folks who looooove athletic metrics. And rightfully so; at his 2013 combine, Johnson went 6’2 215 with a blinding 4.38 40 – and that’s just the tip of his athletic iceberg. Using Raymond Summerlin’s OUTSTANDING Adjusted Explosiveness Index, Johnson’s combine cranked out a 105.4 mark – just a hair below the elite guys in that measure. Those are elite explosion measurables, my friend.
So why is Johnson still a nobody? Well, he bounced around colleges, ultimately landing at DII Grand Valley State and fell into the seventh round. He spent time on the Packers’ and Browns’ practice squads and hadn’t caught an NFL pass before becoming a Viking. But he’s come on like gangbusters as the team’s disappointing wideouts have, well, disappointed. Over the last two games, Johnson has turned 18 targets into a 9-139-1 line. I’m not going nuts and projecting a Miles Austin career for the kid, but he looks like the closest thing to a downfield matchup problem on that roster. I’ll place a speculative 10-12% bid on him – because lottery tickets – but as we’ve seen with C-Patt and Jarius Wright, there are no great bets, even for future potential, in Minnesota. Johnson could flame back onto the practice squad just as easily as he could blow up.
DUMPSVILLE, POPULATION: YOU
Which healthy guys are being dropped? And should they be?
TE Coby Fleener, Colts – Yes, drop him. If only out of sheer principle. Now, let me relax for a moment. I would never advise you to buck the process and make a roster move out of sheer spite, even regarding a turd like Fleener. But he’s simply not a good player; he’s a soft, unreliable receiver best utilized as a fourth or fifth option. His dud against the Jaguars was rendered utterly useless when he alligator-armed a TD pass from Andrew Luck. Cut Fleener loose and revel in the tingles you’ll feel upon clicking the button.
WR Terrance Williams, Cowboys – After a mostly promising rookie season and a second year punctuated by big plays and TDs, Williams has slipped out of the Cowboy passing game. He’s only seeing 4.5 targets/game on the year as Tony Romo is wisely forcefeeding the ball to Dez Bryant (and DeMarco Murray is taking roughly 74 carries/game). Williams may be settling into a downfield-only role, but he’s still worthy of your WR5 slot based on upside; the Cowboys have a difficult remaining schedule that will probably push them into a more pass-heavy mindset.
TE Mychal Rivera, Raiders – The plodding talent seems to have run his course as a fantasy contributor. Rivera’s drop from 9.3 targets/game over his three-game hot streak to 4.5 over the last two has taught us all a lesson about trusting the Raider passing game. Even if he returns to relevance, he’s no longer a startable guy, and I’m sure you can do better for a streamer/TE2.
WEEK 13 QUARTERBACK STREAMERS
Eli Manning, Giants – See above.
Mark Sanchez, Eagles – See tomorrow’s DFS column for specifics, but if Sanchez is still (somehow) unrostered in your league, ride the wave into Dallas on Thanksgiving.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – The Charger defense has lapsed markedly, and the effects are seen clearest on the road. They’ve coughed up 292.3 pass yards/game over their last three trips away from Qualcomm, giving up big days to Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill in the process. Flacco hasn’t been lighting up the scoresheet, but this looks like a tasty matchup.
Zach Mettenberger, Titans – See tomorrow’s DFS column for the breakdown.